More than Just a Pretty Face: The History and Medicine Behind Edible Flowers

More than Just a Pretty Face: The History and Medicine Behind Edible Flowers

Eating flowers is a practice that has deep roots in humanity’s history. More recently, the only place you might see an edible flower is on a fancy dessert at an expensive restaurant (and, chances are, you probably put it to the side). Why should we start eating flowers again? What role have edible flowers played in history and medicine?

An Unknown Beginning

Eating flowers goes back to the beginning of time. There’s no identifiable point in history that this practice began. Ancient Roman, Greek, and Chinese herbalists had plenty to say on the benefits of eating flowers. Incas, Aztecs, and Hindus also chose to include edible flowers in some of their religious rituals.

A Short History Lesson, Featuring Your Favorite Flowers

History shows that some of our garden favorites are more than just a pretty face: they have a fascinating back-story and practical uses today!

Calendula

Calendula is one of the most universally recognized edible flowers, making an appearance in nearly every ancient culture. Records show that its cultivation goes back some 600 years, playing an important role in French and English culture.

Romans frequently used Calendula to give their food a saffron-like tinge, dubbing this herb “Poor-Man’s Saffron.”

Ancient Monks nicknamed Calendula “Pot Marigold” because they so commonly used it in soups and stews.

Yet another title that identifies Calendula is “Mary’s-Gold,” a name surrounded by folklore from the 1200s. Rumor has it that a beautiful, golden-haired girl who sat and watched the sun each day suddenly disappeared, the delightfully yellow flower emerged, the girl was never to be found again, and her friends declared that she had turned into a plant.

Fast forward to the 1800s, when doctors realized that Calendula was helpful as a poultice, stopping bleeding and encouraging wounds to heal. On battle lines, doctors would carry dried Calendula flowers to apply to their injured patients.

Using Calendula Today

Calendula is used by modern herbalists to help with ulcers, wound healing, relieve muscle fatigue, and regulate menstruation. The flower’s green base is where most of the Calendula’s “medicine” resides; petals do not have the same medicinal oomph but still have some value.

Loading component ...

Nasturtium

These natives of Columbia, Peru, and Bolivia made their entry into European life by Spanish conquistadors in the 1600s. Their climbing abilities earned them their scientific name, Tropaeolum Minor, which comes from the Greek word meaning “to twine.” 

Victorian English women would include Nasturtiums in their “Tussie Mussies” (in medieval times, these were small bouquets given as gifts or carried instead of wearing jewelry) for their fragrance and symbolism of victory! 

It wasn’t too long until everyone decided Nasturtiums tasted just as good as they looked. Their seeds were soaked in vinegar and used as caper-substitutes, and their leaves and flowers added extra peppery flavor to salads.

Using Nasturtium Today

Modern herbalists use Nasturtium to help treat respiratory issues, such as bronchitis and congestion, in addition to urinary tract infections. Since Nasturtium is a natural antibacterial agent, some use it to sanitize wounds, while others focus on taking it internally (through tea or their diet).

Loading component ...
Loading component ...

Borage

These buds have a long history of being included in salads, reaching back before 1390. With their light cucumber-like flavor, Borage became a fast favorite and a “cure” for nearly everything. An herbalist in the 1700s reports that a regular intake of “distilled water of Borage” would cheer you up, reduce your risk of fainting spells, and ward off “melancholy and tormented dreams,” among a few other things.

The use of Borage flowers went beyond the drawing-rooms of tightly-corseted, depressed English ladies, however. It is also known as “the herb of courage.” Borage was mixed with wine and given to nervous Celtic warriors before battle to provide calm and courage. These soldiers would sew a Borage flower on their sleeveless coat, under their suit of armor, to remind them to cheer up and be brave!

Using Borage Today

Sure enough, the medieval knights had one thing right: even modern herbalists use Borage to help treat depression. As a natural anti-inflammatory agent, some have found success in treating asthma and rheumatoid arthritis with Borage.

Loading component ...

Feverfew

The Greeks nicknamed this cheery, daisy-like flower “Parthenium” because (rumor has it) doctors used it to save the life of someone who had fallen from the Parthenon during its construction in the 5th century BC.

The common name “Feverfew” comes from the plant’s antipyretic (fever-reducing) qualities. It’s known as the “aspirin” of the 1800s: treating fevers, colds, and headaches.

There’s a possibility that Feverfew also fits the description of “parthenion” (which means “maidenly” in Greek) because it has been widely used to regulate menstruation and ease labor pains.

Using Feverfew Today

Feverfew also has extensive anti-inflammatory properties, which gives it similar modern-day uses to Borage. Most commonly, it is used to treat migraines and tension headaches.

Loading component ...

A Bitter End to Edible Flowers

Interestingly, while there’s no identifiable beginning, there is an identifiable end to the common practice of eating flowers: the industrialization of food. Once everyone started purchasing food instead of growing their own, edible flowers became a novelty.

A Hopeful Comeback

Recently, there has been more interest in organic farming and natural living. We are all smitten with the idea of “farm to table.” We want to use every bit of what we grow, including the mesmerizing buds!

With more recognition of “natural living,” the medicinal uses of flowers have come out of the closet and into broad daylight as well.

The Understandable Guide to Companion Planting: How to Find Soil-Mates in the Garden

The Understandable Guide to Companion Planting: How to Find Soil-Mates in the Garden

The ABC’s of Companion Planting

Selecting the proper companions for your herbs will take a fair amount of forethought.

Firstly, consider the growing conditions each plant requires.

Are their soil and moisture needs compatible? In this case, you must choose plants that match. If you put a moisture-loving plant with a drought-tolerant plant, chances are you’ll drown one and dry out the other.

Secondly, think creatively about their lighting needs.

For instance, you can group a small, low-growing partial-shade-lover with a tall, larger sun-bather. Why? You can use the bigger plant as a natural sunblock for its companion! Ashwagandha makes a very useful “shade-tree” with its large leaves and high stature.

Thirdly, remember pests.

If you group plants susceptible to the same insect, you’re essentially creating an enormous“bullseye” target for them to find. Instead, find a suitable companion that is known to repel the pesky bug. For instance, Basil can attract aphids to the garden. Why not grow Chives nearby due to their aphid-repelling abilities?

Having a variety of herbs in your garden will also help ward off pests. Not only will some herbs repel them, but the different colors and smells will also confuse them. While you are still likely to have some dastardly insects in your garden, hopefully, you’ll prevent an outright plague.

Fourthly, don’t forget disease!

For instance, powdery mildew is a highly contagious condition that is common in Bee Balm. While Bee Balm has undeniable benefits to the garden as a huge draw for pollinators, it is a potential danger as a nearby companion plant. Be cautious!

And lastly, do research on the plant’s required nutrients.

Grouping two plants together that are hungry for the same nutrient may contribute to some not-so-friendly competition. For example, Arugula and Cilantro have compatible growing condition requirements, but they are both hungry for a common nutrient: nitrogen. This may not be a perfect match!

Can you Companion Plant in Containers?

In a word: yes. And it can be done in a few different ways! You may choose to plant your herbs in the same container, or you may decide to grow your herbs in separate pots and locate them nearby each other.

Same Pot Planting

A few extra factors need to be considered when you are Companion Planting in a container. What’s one of the most important things? Growth rate. Slow growing herbs require deeper soil in their pots. You will want to pair these plants with fellow “slow-pokes” that experience similar growth patterns so that they reach maturity around the same time.

You also need to select herbs that won’t “hog” up all the space. Mint and Catnip both have plenty of benefits to offer to the overall health of your garden, but they are both voracious growers. These plants do not ‘play well’ with others and are best left on their own.

Separate Pots, Same Neighborhood

Many of the benefits of Companion Planting result from the appearance, scent, and flowers of your herb-friends; all these factors are unaffected by being in separate pots! As noted in our last article, scientists believe that Companion Planting’s soil-nutrient benefit is minimal to non-existent. Is that true? There’s not a ton of hard-fact-research to support either line of reasoning, so we will leave it up to you!

Strongly scented herbs, like Catnip, are regarded as an excellent pest repellent in the gardening community. The smell reportedly chases off aphids, ants, cabbage loopers, Japanese beetles, weevils, and cockroaches. An added bonus? A few containers of catnip will distract neighborhood cats from vandalizing the more cherished parts of your garden.

Pollinating plants are also highly effective in individual containers, grouped with other plants and herbs. Borage gives pollinators an open invitation and also attracts ladybugs, a beneficial garden predator! These helpful bugs will keep pests away from your herbs and hopefully help increase your yield in the vegetable garden too.

“Tried and True” Soil-Mates

Companion Planting is based less on science and more on “gardener know-how.” Below are a few “tried and true” suggestions from respected gardening sources. Keep in mind, everyone’s soil and growing environments are different. So, keep running your own experiments. As a rule of thumb: if it works, keep doing it!

  • Cilantro & Chervil
  • Anise & Coriander
  • Chives & Dill
  • Rosemary & Sage
  • Dill & Lavender

See a Need, Fill a Need

Much of the success of Companion Planting starts with your observations. After considering specific issues from last year’s growing season, do some research. How could you use another compatible herb to fix the problem?

For instance, did you struggle with a fungal disease? Chamomile has been used by farmers for its antibacterial and antifungal properties. Some growers mist Chamomile tea on their seedlings to prevent fungal infections (“damping off”). Others suggest that their growing presence can help fight off fungal issues. Farmers also have a rich history in Companion Planting Chamomile with fruit crops to enhance flavor.

Did you struggle with spider mites? Some gardeners suggest misting “Cilantro Tea” on other plants to treat and prevent spider mites. Cilantro is also said to ward away potato beetles and attract hoverflies, a great predator of aphids.

 

Companion Planting aids in biodiversity and creates a miniature ecosystem for your herbs. The power is in your hands to matchmake your plant’s ideal companions. If a few of their “dates” go well, maybe you’ll have your own ‘tried-and-true’ combination: a match made in garden-heaven!

Does Companion Planting Really Work?

Does Companion Planting Really Work?

You’ve got a friend in me. You got troubles; I’ve got ’em too. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you. We stick together and see it through, ‘Cause you’ve got a friend in me. You’ve got a friend in me.”

Do those words sound familiar? You got it. Randy Newman’s tune “You Got a Friend in Me” describes one of TV’s most infamous pals: Woody and Buzz! Many claim that mutually beneficial ‘friendships’ can also be forged in the garden by Companion Planting. In a sense, two or more plants can help each other through their “troubles.” But how much of this claim is fiction? How much is a fact? And what works?

A Brief History of Companion Planting

This topic is surrounded by folklore and some mysticism. One of its generally accepted origins is from the Native American culture. “The Three Sisters Planting” consists of corn, pole beans, and winter squash located close to each other. Due to their growth patterns, these plants can coexist and be mutually beneficial. (Although, some “friendly” nutrient competition is always inevitable.) For example, the pole beans will naturally climb the corn, and the large-leafed squash will preserve the ground’s moisture by providing low-bearing shade.

The Controversy

Researching Companion Planting can be frustrating because there is not much concrete scientific evidence to back up the information you find. Why? This practice is mostly anecdotal (based on the gardener’s hearsay about what is successful and what isn’t). Realistically speaking, challenges do come with this type of information. For instance, what works in one area may not be successful in another. Similarly, soil types differ (as does its quality), environment, and a whole slew of other factors.

Due to much of the information not being concrete, many discredit this form of gardening. Some brave souls have tried to make Companion Planting more accredited by using Crystal Chromatography. However, this too was met with criticism by many in the scientifically-minded garden community.

The Facts Behind Companion Planting Basics

Companion Planting is very simple at its core: in comparison to being alone, some plants benefit by being nearby carefully-selected companions. Why is this the case? And how can plants be mutually beneficial to each other?

In its pristine state, what does nature look like? Everything is intermingled: There’s a mix of colors, smells, plant heights, and varieties. What’s the advantage to that? Beneficial critters, such as pollinators, are invited to the mix. Other pest-eating, predator bugs are given ample room to live and reproduce. The home-gardener can mimic nature by creating “refugia,” which is essentially a biodiverse bug hotel in their backyard!

There are dangers when you locate several individuals from the same species near each other. Due to their similar color and smell, these become an identifiable (bullseye) buffet for pests. Additionally, these plants are susceptible to the same types of disease. Between insects and sickness, your garden could be severely affected. What’s a possible solution?

A few studies have shown the benefits of “Perimeter Trap Cropping,” a form of Companion Planting. This study showed that encircling Summer Squash and Cucumbers with Blue Hubbard Squash minimized the need for pesticides by 93% and upped the harvest for six commercial Connecticut farmers. But it doesn’t stop there: this study demonstrated how Dill, Buckwheat, and Coriander protected a crop of Peppers from corn-borers.

Four Ways Companion Planting Can Help Your Garden

According to the UMass Center for Agriculture, Companion Planting can help your garden in these four ways:

Nutrient Boost

“Symbiotic Nitrogen Fixation” is when a gardener purposely plants nitrogen-producing plants nearby nitrogen-hungry species. Legumes (such as beans and peas) are generally regarded for the nitrogen-making abilities and could be beneficial to a tomato plant, which is nitrogen-hungry.

This line of reasoning could also be used when deciding what plants should not be placed near each other. For example, Arugula and Cilantro are both nitrogen-hungry. It probably makes sense to separate the two.

However, many argue that the amount of nitrogen within the soil is only significantly impacted after the growing season. And only after the exhausted plants are worked into the ground. Whatever may be most scientifically accurate, tomato-bean pairings (and others like them) don’t cause harm and are potentially beneficial now and later!

Pest Management

As noted above, Companion Planting (aka Intercropping) can confuse bugs and prevent pest infestations. Low-growers, like Brahmi, can be a ‘positive host,’ giving beneficial predator bugs a place to stay. Meaning, fewer pesky bugs will find your plants, and the ones that do will hopefully be promptly eaten before they cause too much damage.

Increasing Pollinators

Plants that produce brightly colored flowers, such as the Butterfly Flowers and Borage, are highly attractive to pollinators and confuse pests. Vegetable crops often do not have the showiest of blooms, so luring in pollinators leads to a larger harvestable crop.

In the herb world, this means you may have to make some sacrifices. For instance, when it flowers, Basil is a very effective pollinator. However, the taste of the leaves diminishes, and leaf production ceases once it starts to bloom. Is it worth sacrificing an abundance of Basil to “save” your pole beans? That decision is up to you!

Higher Yields

It just makes sense. If your plant selections succeed, you will have minimized pests and boosted pollination, increasing your vegetable yield. Companion Planting methods aren’t only limited to veggies, however. These same methods can be utilized by the backyard herb grower too.

A Few Basic “Rules”

When you start Companion Planting, it’s like you’re Match.com for plants. You have to choose them carefully. To begin with, select plants that have similar soil and moisture needs. It would be counterproductive to put drought-tolerant, sandy-soil-loving Rosemary next to Cilantro, which requires cool temperatures and moist soil.

Secondly, consider the lighting requirements of each plant. And then, get creative!. As an example: Rosemary does perfectly well in the blazing sun. Parsley enjoys the partial shade. Both have similar soil and moisture needs. So, why use your Rosemary as a protective shield for your parsley from the afternoon sun?

The origins of plants can also serve as an easy guide for what may pair well together. In the above example, Rosemary and Parsley are both from the Mediterranean.

Keep a Journal

As noted, Companion Planting is based mostly on what has proven success. It may not always be scientific, but someone proved it some time, somewhere. Does this mean that every Companion Planting suggestion you find online will bring you total success? No. Your garden is unique! Do your own experiments, and keep a log of what works and what doesn’t. This small activity can turn into fun for the entire family. And, your garden will thank you!

The Amazing Abilities of Basil: It’s Not Just Pesto Anymore

The Amazing Abilities of Basil: It’s Not Just Pesto Anymore

None of us like to be pigeonholed. Truth be told: We all wear many different hats. One role, no matter how important, doesn’t describe our entire life. The most devoted “Mom” is also a daughter, friend, worker, artist, horticulturist, and who knows what else! The world of herbs is no different; their uses are endless! Basil is known for Pesto, but exactly what else can it do?

The Many Abilities of Basil

Many people scour the internet for “non-pesto ideas” of what to do with their extra Basil. It’s clear: We love you, Pesto, but we’ve had enough. So, here are a few other ideas:

Basil Truffles

Rich, creamy, semi-sweet chocolate with a subtle flavor of Basil. Do you feel spoiled yet? There isn’t anything much more decadent than a truffle, and they aren’t hard to make. This recipe calls for ½ a cup of fresh Basil leaves and yields 54 spheres of chocolate-bliss!

Basil Ice Cream

If you’re thinking, “I don’t have an Ice Cream machine,” don’t despair! This recipe is churn free and only has four ingredients! You can either leave in the 1 cup of Basil bits or strain them out for an extra smooth texture. Either way, serve this ice cream with some fresh fruit, and you’re suddenly everyone’s best friend. (Make extra Basil-syrup to use in your favorite drinks too!)

Thai Basil Gimlet

The naturally sweet licorice flavors of Thai Basil make this drink incredibly refreshing. Muddle the six basil leaves before mixing and use your Basil-syrup as a replacement for an average simple syrup (if you’re going for an extra herbaceous beverage)!

Basil Infused Vodka or Vinegar

Infusing Vodka or Vinegar is an insanely simple process. Choose whichever Basil you like! Your Basil Infused Vodka will be ready to add some extra pizazz to your mixed drinks for the season, while your souped-up Vinegar will give added flavor to salads.

Natural Cleaning Spray

Similar to the above method, you can also infuse white cleaning vinegar with the fresh-smelling essence of Basil! With only three ingredients needed, this household cleaner is a no-brainer! For extra germ-fighting power, check out this Basil Essential Oil cleaner.

Bath Bags

Drying some of your summertime Basil bounties also means you can make these relaxing, giftable “bath bags.” Essentially, they’re giant, homemade tea bags for your bathwater. Not only will you come out smelling great and feeling relaxed, but your skin will also be moisturized, too, with the addition of some ground oats.

Basil’s Medicinal Uses

This kitchen-favorite has spent a lot of time in the medicine cabinet throughout history. And, it still has a strong presence in modern holistic treatment. “Ayurveda” is an herbal, traditionally Indian form of medicine, in which Holy Green Basil (Tusli) plays a key role.

Whether you decide to embrace every aspect of Ayurveda is up to you. But its goal of preventing sickness or disease, instead of just treating it, is one we can all get behind! 

Holy Green Basil is an excellent source of antioxidants, which contributes to overall wellness. While our bodies naturally make antioxidants, they need an added boost. Why is it so important?

Antioxidants help clean up our bodies from damaging molecules, which, left unchecked, can cause disease and cell damage. Diabetes, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer have all been linked to these dastardly molecules. No wonder we need to get rid of them!

Sweet Basil also gets in on the action, with some studies showing that it lowers blood sugar levels in test animals. This herb was also effective at battling against E. Coli bacteria, leading some researchers to conclude that Basil Oil could help treat or prevent infection.

Most studies you’ll find online research the effectiveness of Basil Supplements or Essential Oils, which can be harmful to small children and pregnant or nursing women. These studies are also limited to Sweet Basil and Holy Green Basil. So, make sure to do your research and consult a doctor if you are considering these options to treat a medical condition.

Using Basil From the Garden, However, Is Usually a Low-risk Choice

Whether it be a home remedy for a mosquito bite or just adding this fresh herb as a regular part of a healthy, balanced diet, Basil can improve still your quality of life! Read on to see some low-risk health-hacks that may just be better than pesto:

  • Upset Stomach: Traditionally, fresh Basil has been used to calm indigestion. Simply add a few leaves to a cup of water. For those wanting more immediate relief, try eating a leaf-or-two straight.
  • Bug Bites: Basil has a chemical compound called “eugenol,” which helps itchy skin! Blend or finely chop fresh basil leaves and rub them on the affected area.
  • Nasal Congestion: Using the “Steam Inhalation” method is an excellent way to relieve unpleasant congestion. Simply boil a pot of water, place a few Holy Basil leaves (and Peppermint leaves, for good measure) in the water, and inhale for 10 minutes. For the full benefit of the steam, place a towel over your head, capturing the moisture from the pot. (Don’t forget to pull back your hair, Rapunzel!)If this all seems like too much work, you can always “steam yourself” in a hot bathtub. For a more concentrated treatment, dissolve ten drops of Basil Essential Oil into 1 cup of Epsom Salt. (It’s important to remember not to place the oils directly in the bathwater. Oil and water don’t mix, which increases the risk of skin irritation.)
  • Acne: Blend a handful of basil leaves with a dash of lemon juice. Apply the mixture to your face and leave it for 30 minutes. Wash it off with cold water. For a moisturizing effect, add a tablespoon of honey to the mix! Use this remedy three times per week for the best results.
  • Anxiety: Some studies have shown that Holy Green Basil has anti-depressant qualities. Reap the benefits by incorporating Tulsi tea into your routine. Take ¼ cup of fresh Holy Green Basil leaves, place it in 1 ½ cups of water in a non-stick pan, and leave it on medium-high heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain out the leaves, and make any additions you would like lemon, honey, you name it!

While pesto will forever hold a place in our hearts (and in our kitchen!), Basil has so much more to offer. May your growing season be fruitful, so you can use Basil in all its roles.

Loading component ...
The Secret Life of Basil: Forlorn Love, Holy Water, and Scorpions?

The Secret Life of Basil: Forlorn Love, Holy Water, and Scorpions?

Basil: We love it. It’s become a household staple and a beloved friend. It tastes great and enhances everything. No wonder the word “basil” comes from the Greek word for “King.” But, when you stop to think, how much do you really know about that Basil sitting on your windowsill? This “King of the Kitchen” has a fascinating secret past, and surprising origins! Learning the facts will give you some mind-tingling trivia to use at the dinner table, and just might put a smile on your face next time you make your grandma’s marinara recipe.

Basil Basics

What do Basil, Mint, Rosemary, and Sage have in common? Hold onto your chair! They’re all related. Is your mind blown?

These plant-cousins seem vastly different in looks and tastes, but they are all part of the Lamiaceae plant family, which has about 3,500 species! In fact, the genus we know as Basil (ocimum basilicum) has 150 varieties.

That classic variety you’re probably thinking of right now is Basil ‘Genovese,’ aka: Sweet Basil. But, there are plenty other types of this royal herb that deserve attention. Tulsi, or Holy Green Basil, is revered for its religious significance and health benefits. Then, of course, there’s the dark and glossy Basil ‘Amethyst,’ and the ‘Thai Siam Queen,’ who graces us with her sweet licorice twist. And that’s just to name a few!

Care

The good news is, all of these Basil plants require the same type of care. So, if you want to experiment this growing season and try out a new variety, don’t despair! Just follow these basic care tips:

  • Soil: Select a nutrient rich, well-draining soil.
  • Water: Basil hates soggy roots. The soil should be kept slightly damp, rewatering before it has dried out in its entirety. If you’ve opted for container gardening, check your soil an inch or two down with a chopstick or your finger. If you used a traditional potting mix instead of the recommended well-draining soil, water less frequently. Tip: The best time to water is in the mornings or evenings. This will help prevent the foliage from getting sunburned from the harsh afternoon sun!
  • Light: These herbs love the morning and early afternoon sun. They require 6-8 hours of natural light per day.

If you are growing your Basil indoors, they still have the same natural light requirement. Put them near your sunniest window, and supplement with a grow light. If you opt to use a grow light-only, Basil requires 10 hours of artificial light.

  • Harvesting: You should do this frequently to encourage your Basil to become a mighty bush! Check the stem and locate an area where two pairs of leaves are growing; cut the stem just above. This means the two stems will continue to grow, amplifying your plant’s productivity.

Fast fact: If harvested properly, twelve Basil plants can yield 4-6 cups of leaves per week! Having trouble using that much basil? You can always freeze it. Simply pulse the washed leaves in your food processor with some olive oil (to prevent the leaves from turning black in the freezer) and put it in an ice cube tray. Viola! Fresh Basil whenever you need it.

The Origins of Basil

When you hear “Basil,” what country comes to mind? Italy, no doubt! And for a good reason: Pesto, Pasta Sauce, and Caprese Salad are some of our favorite Basil-forward dishes. The cruel irony, however, is that Italy’s favorite herb is not a native of the Mediterranean.

Basil was a transplant during the spice trade from India and Asia. No one is entirely sure who gets dibs on its origin. The first historical record of Sweet Basil was in 807 AD in the region of Hunan, China. However, Basil’s roots run deep in India, where Hindus revere it and use it in the ancient worship of the god Vishnu.

The confusion about the exact origins of Basil is a testament to its hardiness! Wherever this plant goes, it can grow and propagate. This also highlights the rich history of container gardening, which aided in Basil’s transport.

Historical Significance

People in ancient times were fascinated by our favorite herb. Basil became an integral part of religious traditions and the topic of some intriguing folklore. Perhaps funniest of all: Many of the concepts are in stark contrast to each other. So, will we never know all of the secrets Basil has to hold? Read on and draw your own conclusion!

Basil is a central part of Hinduism. Holy Green Basil is offered to Vishnu, when worshipping her, making it a common feature in Indian gardens. During the British occupation, Indian citizens were permitted to swear on Basil rather than the Bible when in court, highlighting just how esteemed this herb is in Hindu culture!

The religious significance of Basil transcends belief-systems, as the Greek Orthodox Church uses the same type of Basil to prepare their holy water.

Jewish tradition says that Basil can give you strength when fasting. While Italians say that Basil helps you have a restful “abbiocco” (after-lunch nap).

Many cultures also revered Basil as a way to gain favorable passage into the afterlife. Ancient Egyptians used it in their mummifying procedures. Other cultures would place the herb in the hand or mouth of the deceased.

John Keats famously wrote a tragic love-poem surrounding Basil Folklore, entitled “Isabella, or the Pot of Basil.” While we will save you from some of the grisly details (this story makes Romeo and Juliet sound like a kid’s cartoon): A forlorn girl uses a pot of Basil to preserve her dead beau, only to “die forlorn, imploring for her Basil to the last” after her brothers steal her beloved herb. (Don’t get this attached to your container garden, please!)

Meanwhile, in Africa, Basil was used to ward off scorpions. While in European cultures, just one whiff of Basil could apparently infest your brain with them!

Italians saw Basil as a signal of love. Portugal too, uses Basil as a gift to your sweetheart during certain religious holidays. While ancient Rome and Greece felt that Basil symbolized hatred, abuse, poverty, and misfortune.

 

Who would’ve thought that we had such a world-traveler on our hands! Next time you pick up some fresh Basil, take a couple of seconds to reflect on how far this ‘King of the Kitchen’ has come. (But smell it at your own risk!)

Loading component ...