Basil (ocimum basilicum)

Basil has an enmity with amber, which does not attract it, 
but repulses even a smallest shred. Its smell can revive spirits
- Hildegard of Bingen
One of the most common seasoning herbs in the world, basil is a great friend to any Kitchen Witch. Its unique aroma will make Your cooking so much tastier than just the dull salt and pepper. Most of the Mediterranean dishes will require it somewhere along the way, and the recipe will probably call for fresh leaves. But don't despair : basil is not a very demanding plant, so You can easily grow it in a flowerpot and enjoy the natural supply of fresh herb for Your cooking by simple means of watering the plant regularly.
A nice trick for obtaining a healthy basil plant is to buy it fresh (some stores offer whole plants in little plastic pots) and then move the entire thing - apart from the plastic - into a larger flowerpot with more soil. What the manufacturers supply is usually very poor, but You only need to top it up and the plant will be fine.
When cultivating basil at home, it's important to remember that once the plant flowers, it stops producing leaves. The stem becomes woody and the oil withdraws from it, so it has no further use as a condiment. To prevent this, You should pick the flowers before they bloom. However, this happens separately for each stem, so You can leave the flowering one for decoration and harvest from the others.
Some recipes that require basil:
Listing those recipes is actually quite pointless because of their sheer number. Besides, condiments can be added according to our tastes and modified in almost any dish. However, these are the ones I make most often, and You'll be seeing them all here.
When using basil for cooking, remember not to chop it with a knife. If the leaves are too big, rip them to pieces with Your fingers - much less oil is lost that way. For decoration, a few whole leaves make almost any meal look elegant and healthy.
  • Medicinal uses
The medicinal uses of this herb are still being studied ; however, tradition shows us at least some areas of interest. Hindu medicine has made use of basil as an auxiliary in treatment of stress, and the essential oil shows disinfectant qualities similar to those of mint oil. Hildegard of Bingen claims basil can 'ease the childbirth', but she does not supply any specific information.
  • Magic uses
As with most herbs which have a strong, pleasant smell, basil can be used for protection spells and for cleansing the house of negative influence. It is also used in charms that are to bring luck and prosperity, which are all good reasons to keep it in Your kitchen. However, personally, I never use basil for spells, much preferring sage or lavender for protection, and cinnamon or nutmeg for luck and prosperity. This is in no way an attempt to discourage You from doing it. By all means, do. It's just that I have such a strong association of basil and food that I'd have to stop in mid-magic an go eat something. With basil, I am content to add it to my dishes, and thus profit of its power from within, which I strongly advise to you, too.

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