Basil has always been considered a sacred plant. That is why only the Basile had the right to pick it up, associating this gesture with a ritual full of mystery. In India, where it originated, basil was raised to the rank of “sacred plant”, being grown only in places specially arranged around shrines. For centuries, basil has “traveled” all over the world, carried either by merchants or by emigrants. More than 4,000 years ago, it “left” India and spread throughout Asia, then into Egypt. To the ancient Greeks, basil was the “king of plants.” It arrived in England only in the 16th century, while the Americans were able to enjoy the scent of this plant much later.
How Much Does Basil Cost?
The price of one pound of certified organic fresh basil leaves is anywhere between $10 and $22. This type of basil can be purchased from many farmers’ markets or even from specialty grocery stores. On the other hand, one pound of non-organic basil can be bought for $7 to $15.
For example, you can buy one pound of basil from farmersdaughterherbs.com for $16, half of a pound for $10, and one ounce for $3.
If you want to buy a smaller amount of basil, be prepared to pay anywhere between $1 and $3 for one ounce. For instance, at Walmart, you can buy 0.75 ounces of basil for $4.
You can find small spice containers like 5 to 10-ounce bottles of dried basil in local grocery stores that can be purchased for $2 to $7.
If you choose to buy only the stalks, be prepared to spend anywhere between $10 and $18, while the leaves will set you back anywhere between $15 and $22. A full plant that can be used or planted can be purchased for $7 to $15.
Depending on the seller, the price of the specialty herbs such as purple, cinnamon, or African blue can be 30% more expensive. In the table below you will find the price estimates for some of the most common types of basil.
|Cardinal||You will notice it by its red leaves. This basil will come with a stronger spicy scent and should be used with vinegar and oil.||$7 per four-inch potted plant|
|African Blue||It can be found in some floral arrangements and is a taller variety. It smells like a combination of peppers and mint and will usually be used with mead and rice.||$6 per four-inch potted plant|
|Genovese||It will be used in Italian dishes like pestos, being an Italian plant with big leaves.||$6.95 per plant or $6 per 400 seeds|
|Cinnamon||It should be paired with some fruits because it has a milder flavor. It is used to make fried rice with noodle salads.||$2.5 per ounce|
|Green Ruffles||It also has a mild flavor and you will notice its curled leaves.||$6 per bunch or $5 per 100 seeds|
|Greek||It is used in meat dishes and some salads and it is the smallest basic kind.||$6 per 400 seeds or $6.95 per plant|
|Lemon||It will usually be used along with poultry, teas, or grilled vegetables and it has a lemon aroma.||$2.5 per average bundle|
|Holy||You should use this variety in meat curry recipes. It is very fragrant, sweet, and spicy.||$8 to $10 per 4 ounces|
|Lime||It will have a citrus-like flavor, with sweet and mild tones.||$3.5 per bunch|
|Lettuce||It has a mild flavor and can be used in lettuce wraps or salads.||$4 per bunch|
|Purple||You can use it as a garnish for color or steep it in vinegar. It is less sweet than other varieties, but very aromatic nonetheless.||$3.5 per 3-ounce bag|
|Thai sweet||It will keep its flavor even when cooked at high temperatures. It features a licorice-like flavor and dark pointed leaves.||$4 to $5 per bunch or $17 per pound|
|Sweet||This type is the most used in salads. It is green and its leaves are cup-shaped.||$6 per pound|
The basil plant can reach between 8 and 24 inches in height, with light green, silky leaves, with lengths between 0.6 and 2 inches, and about 0.40 and 1.18 inches wide. The flowers of the basil are, depending on the variety, white to purple.
The basil plant has an anise-like taste, with a strong sweet-pungent odor. Basil is very sensitive to cold, growing well in heat and humidity. While common varieties of basil are annual plants, other varieties, such as African blue basil and Thai sacred basil, are perennial.
Important things to consider
Whether you pick it from pots or from the garden, it is recommended to break only the young leaves. In this way, the plant lives longer, and the leaves will later grow even bigger.
If you want the basil to retain its aroma, pick it before it blooms.
When buying basil, choose brightly colored leaves that look fresh. Basil can be found in summer and autumn at producers in farmers’ markets, and throughout the rest of the year in grocery stores. Basil can also be grown in pots in places with light and sun. Once harvested, the fresh basil is stored in the refrigerator without being washed, wrapped in a damp napkin, in a plastic or paper bag. It must be washed before consumption because it can collect dirt and sand.
The fresh basil is wrapped in wet paper and can be stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 days, and in freezer bags filled with air, it is kept for up to a week. You can dry it in places protected from direct sunlight and keep it in glass containers or canvas bags. Basil can also be stored in olive oil.
Potted basil needs water, especially when temperatures are high. Do not keep it near a direct heat source or in areas with drafts. Water the soil whenever needed, especially when the soil begins to dry out. Make sure the water is well-drained and check the collection tray; it should never be filled with water.
Like oregano, basil is one of the essential plants used in Mediterranean cuisine. The fresh and dried leaves give dishes like Genoese pesto, pizza, Greek salad their specific sweet-salty, subtle clove flavor.
Its aromas are extremely delicate and can be easily destroyed while cooking. So it is good for the basil to be cooked as little as possible, being added to the dishes at the end, just before serving.
To intensify the flavors, it is good for the basil to be broken into pieces and not cut with a knife.
Basil has been used for thousands of years to treat a wide range of health conditions, including bronchitis, rheumatism, epilepsy, asthma, hiccups, coughs, skin and blood diseases, parasitic infections, neuralgia, wounds, inflammation, and oral pain. The basil plant contains eugenol, a chemical that was used in the past to treat toothache, although there is insufficient evidence to suggest that eugenol is effective in actually treating toothache.
Pregnant women or those who want to get pregnant or breastfeed should try to avoid basil because it is known to affect fertility. Basil essential oils or supplements can interfere with cholesterol-lowering and diabetes medications, so talk to your doctor before taking basil supplements.
Also, basil should not be given to babies and young children.
How to dry basil
Basil leaves or branches should be picked on a sunny morning, as this is the time when the aroma of the plant is strong and the oil content is the highest. Wash the basil if necessary and allow the leaves to dry. Tie the branches in bundles and hang them in a dry place, away from light. The leaves dry just as well if kept on a clean towel, spread out on a tray. Generally, basil dries in about three weeks.
The efficiency of preserving plants in this way for the winter depends very much on the air quality in the house and we are talking here about temperature and humidity.
Studies have shown that the optimum level of humidity in enclosed spaces is 40-70%, to ensure that you do not create an environment conducive to the development of mold or bacteria.
To dry the basil in the oven, all you have to do is wash and cut fresh basil and place the leaves on a baking sheet. Put them in the oven at the lowest setting for 1.5 to 4 hours.
If you have small quantities of basil that you want to dry, you can use the microwave. Set it to the lowest temperature and let the plants dry for a minute. If you see that they are not ready, leave them for another 30 seconds and so on, until you see that they have become brittle, but they keep their color and do not turn brown.
As with drying in the oven, it is recommended that before putting them in the microwave, you separate the leaves from the stem.
Once you have managed to dry the basil, you should try to figure out the best storage method so that it keeps its flavors. Here are some practical tips in this regard:
- use glass jars, hermetically sealed;
- use paper bags;
- store containers in cool places;
How can I save money?
If you want to get fresh organic basil at a good price take into consideration shopping at the local farmer’s market.
It is recommended to buy in bulk if you use basil often.
You can buy a grow-your-own garden herb kit if you have a garden at home. The price of a kit like this is anywhere between $10 and $15 and includes more herbs along with the basil. Basil can be bought also from online retailers. Some of the most popular basil plants are Lemon Sweet Dani, Basil Genovese, Basil Amethyst, and Italian Large Leaf Basil.