Wednesday, 15 October 2014

This week in your garden.

Semi-tender plants, Azalea, being a good example; should now be brought inside into the green house. However, first of all, give the structure a good clean and make sure to wash the pots before you use them. I use jeyes fluid for this.

Violets intended for flowering in cold frames during the winter months can now be lifted and replanted in the frame. Try and keep them as close to the glass as possible. Do not forget to water the plants in.

Other tender bedding plants that should also be lifted this week are Begonias, Heliotropes,Fuchsias etc

I know it has been very mild of late, at least here in the UK. However, you never know when the weather will turn.


Basil is a very popular herb used in cooking, mainly associated with Mediterranean cuisine. However, Basil is also widely used for medicinal purposes, much used in Far Eastern medicine especially in the Ayurvedic tradition, where it is also known as tulsi.The name of the herb "basil" comes from the Greek word meaning "king" or "royal", reflecting that this herb was regarded extremely highly. In Italy, basil was symbolic for love and was sometimes used as an aphrodisiac. Perhaps explaining it's wide use today in Italian dishes. However, it originated from India and was introduced into Europe in ancient times.

For medicinal purposes, it is widely used for respiratory conditions such as bronchitis, coughs, colds, asthma, flu and emphysema. Basil is an expectorant, making it good for treating upper respiratory symptoms.  It has also been used as an antidote to poisonous insect or snake bites as well as being used in the fight against epidemics and fever, such as malaria. Basil improves blood circulation and the digestive system. It is considered a 'cooling' herb with anti-inflammatory properties and is used to relieve symptoms of rheumatic pain, irritable skin conditions and soothe the nerves. It is good for rubbing the leaves on insect bites to reduce itching and inflammation. They can also be used as a warming tonic for nervous exhaustion or any cold condition. This can be done by pouring boiling water on to the leaves and inhale the steam.

Like most other mints, Basil is often recommended for digestive complaints. When drunk as a tea after a meal it can enhance digestion and dispel gas. To prepare the tea, pour 1 cup of hot (not boiling) water over about 1 teaspoon of fresh chopped Basil leaves  and steep for 5 minutes. Strain and drink. Honey can be added if a sweeter taste is required.
A basil infusion (tea) is recommended for treating vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea and constipation. As it has slight sedative properties, it can be useful for headaches and anxiety especially in combination with other sedating herbs like chamomile and catnip.

As an excellent natural insect repellent, sprigs of basil burned on the barbecue will repel mosquitoes and a pot of basil in a windowsill will discourage flies.

There are many varieties of basil, each with their own distinct flavor such as Lemon or Clove Basil which are used in cooking as well as for medicinal purposes. Although Basil is native to India and Persia it is also commercially cultivated in the Mediterranean. Basil is a member of the mint family and is very similar in appearance. The most popular type of basil that is used in cooking is sweet basil.

Basil is an excellent source of iron, calcium, potassium and Vitamin C. It also contains smaller amounts of Vitamin A, magnesium and manganese. Along with its medicinal value, basil is nutritionally rich in anti-aging antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.  As it can be consumed in fairly large quantities compared to some herbs, it makes it a very beneficial health food. 

Basil is easily available from your local supermarket, fresh, dried or even frozen. Fresh basil sold already cut, will keep for a few days if refrigerated and wrapped in a damp paper towel. Living pots of Basil that you can keep on your windowsill are an even better way to supply your needs of fresh Basil. These will keep going for weeks even months if cared for properly and work out very inexpensive compared to regularly buying ready cut Basil. As with most herbs fresh basil is much more aromatic and flavorsome than dried basil and gives a completely different taste to your dishes. Always try to use fresh basil where possible. There is no better Basil then the one that you grow yourself, even if it is only on a window ledge. You can still get away with sowing it now in a glasshouse.

Basil is an exceedingly versatile herb that may be used in an abundant variety of foodsI love it. It is especially excellent in tomato-based dishes, spinach, and all types of squash. It is great in soups but don't add it until the last few minutes of cooking as it will destroy the flavor. It can also be used in cream cheese for sandwiches, dips, and pasta dishes. Basil is the main ingredient in pesto.  Sprinkle fresh basil over the top of your pizza or sprinkle torn basil over a tomato and mozzarella salad. Add to stir-fried vegetables. Use in a marinade with garlic and olive oil. 
Add fresh leaves of basil to your salad. 

Basil is delicious, nutritious and an effective natural treatment for many common ailments. It should therefore be an essential feature  for your outdoor or indoor organic herb garden. 


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