The very first edible that I cultivated in my backyard was Italian sweet basil (O. basilicum ‘Genovese Gigante’), because one of my favourite foods is basil pesto pasta; it requires a large amount of the fresh herb, and it is sometimes hard to find at supermarkets in Canada, also usually on the expensive side. I purchased a packet of seed for a price similar to the cost of one small bunch of fresh basil from the produce section, and I have never looked back; it is easy to sprout the seed indoors in early spring, transplant the seedlings outdoors once the weather is consistently warm, and then they grow great in pots or the ground. At first, I only knew about the variety used for pesto, with its shiny and wide green leaves, and then also grew Thai basil (O. basilicum var. thyrsiflorum ‘Siam Queen’), but a couple of years ago, I got a free packet of Kitchen Blend Basil from West Coast Seeds™ and since it was getting old, and it was hard to find seed this spring due to the pandemic, I decided to give it a try. As described in their catalogue, the West Coast™ Kitchen Basil Blend combines “three unique basil varieties for utility in the kitchen.” The first one was the familiar Genovese basil, which “has big smooth green leaves, for use in pesto and pasta”:
And last but not least, Cinnamon basil (O. basilicum ‘Cinnamon’) which looks a lot like Thai basil, but it is a bigger plant, and with a very different scent, truly cinnamon-like; its “leaves are lovely as a garnish and nice choice for herbal teas. It has smaller leaves than the Genovese and lovely pink flowers”:
The genus Ocimum belongs to the Lamiaceae botanical family, with around 150 different species of basil (albahaca, in Spanish), native to several tropical regions around the World, mostly in Africa, although many of the sweet basil varieties (Ocimum basilicum var) are originally from India, and other regions in Asia and the Middle East. Genovese sweet basil was introduced to Europe in ancient times by he Greek, known in Spain since at least the Middle Ages, and brought from there to the American continent sometime during the Spanish colonial times.
I was surprised to learn that there are at least two varieties of basil that are considered native to Mexico and other tropical areas in the American continent. The first one is Albahaca de Monte (Mountain basil, Ocimum micranthum Willd ) , identified in the Mexican states of Campeche, Chiapas, Colima, Jalisco, Oaxaca, Puebla, Queretaro, Quintana Roo, Sinaloa, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Veracruz and Yucatan. It has been used as a medicinal plant by native groups since pre-Hispanic times; in Zapotec language it is know as guiestia, and as cacaltun in Maya. The second one is, curiously, Cinnamon basil, also known as Mexican basil; what you know, I have been unknowingly growing another plant native to Mexico this summer!
FUN FACT: In 2007, as part of a mission of the Space Shuttle Endeavour, two plant growth chambers were flown to the International Space Station on the STS-118 shuttle mission. Astronaut Clay Anderson grew cinnamon basil in one chamber and lettuce in the second.
I am linking to Cee’s Flower of the Day (FOTD) Challenge for August 10, 2020.
I am joining Fandango’s Dog Days of August (FDDA) Challenge for August 10, 2020, with the theme: “your favourite food.”