Growing Herbs In Texas: Planting Specialty Basils

http://www.motherearthliving.com/In-the-Garden/growing-herbs-in-texas-specialty-basils.aspx

c.meredith2Cynthia Meredith has been gardening with herbs, reading about herbs, and discussing herb gardening in Texas for more than 20 years. She has owned The Herb Cottage (www.theherbcottage.com) for over 10 years, selling herb plants to people all over our state. 

It's full summer here in Texas. The afternoon temperatures regularly hit the mid to upper 90s with the heat index, or "feel like" temperature, anywhere around 105 to 108 degrees. In other words, it's hot!! I usually finish my gardening in the early morning, if at all. I still have beds that were overtaken by weeds due to the spring and, more recent, rains. I'm getting them cleared out little by little. I'd like to have fall flowers, which means that I have to clear the beds out now for that to happen.

In the herb garden, though, I did get my parsley and soapwort cleared out so that I could plant my specialty basil plants. The bed looks so nice now, all newly planted and mulched.

27 July Prep for Herb Bed
Preparation for the new herb bed.

27 July Plants laid out
All the plants laid out.

27 July Planted and Water
Plant and water!
Photos by Cynthia Meredith

Some of the basils I planted are different varieties of African and Indian basil. I also planted a Serrata basil, which is a sweet basil with serrated edges on the leaves. It has a traditional sweet basil flavor.

The African types are called Ocimum canum 'Mtule', and lime-flavored 'Kivumbasi'.

You should grow 'Mtule' as an annual, according to Horizon Herbs.

This is a handsome, upright African bush basil that becomes woody with age. Within its native range, the arching, reddish seedheads are a common sight throughout the wildlands. The plant is similar to wild Vana Tulsi and is very high in Eugenol. Eugenol is oil of clove, and interestingly the local use of 'Mtule' follows the same use that is commonly employed for oil of clove—as an antiseptic and pain reliever for dental woes. Among other uses, local people give the fresh leaves to children to allay pain of teething.  This plant prefers full sun and is not picky about soil, growing well in regular garden soil, even waste places, abandoned fields, etc. —Horizon Herbs

African basil (Ocimum canum) is rare and tastes like mint, according to Horizon Herbs. It can be used as a tea to combat persistent headaches, migraines, fevers, worms and rheumatis. It can also be used as an incense to welcome newborns and to drive away evil spirits.

Kivumbasi has a very strong lime scent and flavor. It is a small plant that flowers under one foot tall.

The varieties of tulsi that I planted are all Ocimum sanctum, or Holy basil. The three types are Rama Tulsi, Vana Tulsi, which if kept from freezing will be a perennial, and Krishna Tulsi, a purple-stemmed variety.

According to Horizon Herbs, planting these tulsi varieties by your doorstep is said to bring good luck.

Tulsi is considered to be adaptogenic in its effects, and among the many documented uses are the following: stress reduction, immune enhancement, promoting longevity, improving metabolic oxygenation, increasing endurance, fighting infections, and improving digestion. Tulsi is also a rich source of bioavailable vitamins and minerals. —Horizon Herbs

Basil does so well here in general because of the heat and I'm excited about the different varieties I've planted. The grasshoppers have only attacked the Tulsi Rama, but I think it will recover. (I have more plants if it doesn't.)

For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, you know I lost the trunk of my lemon eucalyptus tree. Here is a picture of the new growth. Wow!! Fast!

27 July tree
Photo by Cynthia Meredith

I hope you're all surviving the summer, keeping cool with herbal tea from your garden and harvesting your herbs for vinegars, pesto and summer salads!


 Do you have any basil in your garden? Let us know!