It’s Really Holy
This entry stemmed from a conversation I had with a fellow commuter a month ago. She marveled at the variety of basil I had in my bag which looked and smelled different from one another. She confessed that she didn’t know there were that many types of basil.
I grew up with four different types of basil: Holy basil (both purple and white), Lemon basil, Thai Basil and Wild basil. Each of these have a specific use in cooking since they smell and taste differently. This year I grew only four types: Holy basil, Lemon basil, Thai basil and Italian basil. The Purple and Greek basil seedlings were eaten by slugs early in the season and I didn’t feel like starting them all over again. Four different ones should be enough for this year considering the vegetable garden was taken over by cherry tomatoes.
Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) is a little bit picky with its surrounding. If the weather is not warm enough, it refuses to sprout. If it doesn’t get enough sun or too much water, it will develop black spots, drop its leaves or rot from the root up. Why should I grow it then? No other basil can replace it when it comes to stir-fry chicken with chili pepper and basil. I have tried to replace it with Italian basil since it’s more common in the supermarket in the middle of winter. It’s passable, but not the same. It’s also great in steaming seafood, used in combination with Lemongrass and Kaffir Lime.
Holy Basil is the most aromatic and spicy of all basil, but has the thinnest leaf. It has very thin and hairy leaves with purple stems. Aside from cooking, it also has medicinal benefits. Tea made from its leaves (fresh or dry) helps to reduce indigestion and bloating. Crushed leaves can be used as a mosquito repellant when applied to your skin. One of my acquaintances, originally from India, mentioned to me recently that chewing three to four leaves when you feel you might have a cold will help prevent it. Learn something new every day.