Scientific name: Ocimum basilicum
Common Name: Basil or Sweet Basil
The basil plant is thought to have originated in India. Today it is planted throughout the world for its fresh and dried leaves as well as its essential oils.
Basil is cultivated for its aromatic leaves that are used fresh or dried and for the production of essential oils and essence. The fresh and dried leaves are used in cooking as flavouring and also eaten raw in salads.
Basil is known for its medicinal uses: relieving nausea, indigestion and inflammation. It is used to relieve anxiety as it has a slight sedative action. Basil has also been taken for migraines and said to help sufferers of epilepsy.
Basil does best in well-drained sandy loam soils that are high in organic matter. It can grow in soils with a wide range in pH of 4.5 to 8 but does best in soils with a pH of 6.5.
When preparing the soil in the plant area it is essential to add enough organic manure or compost to the soil. This should be ploughed in a month before planting to give any weeds chance to germinate. The ground must then be disc harrowed in the week prior to planting to clear the weeds again and smooth the plant area.
For commercial production, some popular cultivars are: Anise, Camphor, Cinnamon, Dani, Dark Opal, Genovese, Large leaf, Lemon, Mammoth, Purple ruffles and Sweet.
It is best to seek local advice on the growing practices and the seed company on what the best variety is for the intended market.
Do not plant anything unless the market for it is first known.