Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is an annual herb native to Asia and belonging to the family Lamiaceae. This is a prominent cooking herb used in so many cuisines worldwide that it’s often called the “king of herbs”. It grows to about a foot in height, and has quite attractive white flowers which are borne towards the end of it’s growth cycle.
Basil features a lot in Mediterranean and Asian cooking. The leaves of basil are best harvested just before it flowers if you want the strongest basil flavor possible.
This herb loves warm soil and dry air. It can be grown indoors and under artificial light. You might guess that basil is sensitive to cold, which is absolutely right; so be sure to wait until spring is well along and no night time frosts are still occurring that will hurt the plant.
Basil can be propagated from cuttings; if soaked in water, cuttings start developing roots, which can then be transferred over to a peat pot for the plant to take root. Once outdoor climate conditions are suitable, it can be planted outside in the ground.Good well drained soil, a sunny location, and any typical houseplant food administered monthly should suffice for its requirements.
Then, in about six weeks, you can harvest the leaves and dry them for use in casseroles, bread and a wide variety of other recipes. By mid-summer you’ll be able to see white flowers on 1-2 foot stalks and the plants will have profuse dark green or purple leaves. If you want to grow basil as a perennial, it’s important to pinch the flowers off while they are still in the budding stage so as to prevent the herb from completing its life cycle and dying afterwards.
The common sage (Salvia officinalis) is a perennial herb native to the regions surrounding the Mediterranean. Just like the basil, it is a very well known herb used for thousands of years in many cultures and countries. Often called the Garden Sage, there also exist a wide variety of cultivars which are valued for low ground cover in summer rock gardens, rather than any culinary or medicinal properties. Some of these cultivars are established ones like:
- Tricolor – Variegated, white and purplish leaves
- Alba – Produces white flowers
- Icterina – Variegated, golden yellow leaves
The common sage grows to about 2 feet high (60 cm) and produces tall spikes of lilac flowers. It thrives best in relatively poor, but well drained soils (just like the basil) and warm sunny conditions.
Easy to grow from seeds, they’re even easier when you use stem cuttings. Just make sure they have well-drained soil to avoid root rot and space the plants about a foot and a half apart. With gray-green, feathery leaves, they can cover large areas if not kept in check.
The upside is they’re very hardy and, even in cold climates, they’ll come back year after year. That means years of good smells and beautiful color from their lilac-colored flowers. You can harvest leaves before the flowers sprout and dry them. The leaves produce an aroma which is why they are popular in seasoning meats, poultry, and sausages.
The genus Salvia actually encompasses many types of sage species, but because of its immense popularity, only the common sage is well known enough to be often mistaken as the only type of sage there is.
Amongst its many medicinal uses, the common sage is well represented in folk medicine as an aid for sore throats, soothing to the mind, and assists in digestion. The sage’s crushed flowers make a delightful perfume, which is what makes them a permanent staple in The Body Shop!
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