Even during the ancient times, people have viewed basil with high regard. This aromatic spice plant is called “the king of herbs”. Some refer to it as the “royal herb”. It is known for its various medicinal, decorative, and culinary uses. Basil comes in more than 150 different types and appears in various colors, each variant leaving a unique flavor signature. Many restaurants in Texas highlight the savory elegance of a wide array of dishes from Thai cooking to the Mediterranean to modern fusion, all made possible by the exquisite use of basil.
Species: O. basilicum
Binomial Name: Ocimum basilicum
- Basil was unknown in the United States until the British brought basil here in 1621. The first to use it in the US are residents of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
- Ancient Romans and Greeks scream and shout when planting basil. They believe this is necessary for the plant to grow.
- Such power was attributed to the basil plant that it was believed that each leaf can transform into a scorpion over time.
- Basil over roses? Why not especially if you are in Italy. Here, basil is a symbol of love.
Basil Buying Guide
If you are buying basil for cooking, you can buy fresh cut basil in the market or in the produce section of the grocery. Fresh-cut basil you didn’t use can be stored in the refrigerator. Just put them in a bottle or jar with water and cover it with plastic. It should last for 2 to 4 more days. You can use it if you are cooking a dish that needs basil.
You can also buy basil to plant in your backyard or garden. You can buy seeds, potted young basil ready for transplant, or full-grown potted basil. There are many herb farms and nurseries in Texas selling basil.
Basil Production & Farming in Texas
Texas grows 64 types of basil including fresh eating or chopped in salads and recipes. Growers plant after the danger of frost has passed because basil is very sensitive to cold weather. Basil are placed where they are exposed to as much sunlight as possible, while the soil around it should drain well. When basil flowers bloom, you can remove the flowers so that the leaves retain its taste, or you can leave them untouched so that the flowers attract bees and other pollinators.
Basil is grown by commercial growers so that they can provide supermarkets as well as restaurants with a steady supply of clean, fresh-cut leaves. A certain portion of the harvested leaves is allocated for producing dried basil. To produce dried basil, remove the stem and lay these out under the sun until crisp. These should be stored inside a clean, dry, and airtight container.
Basil is ready for harvest if the plant is more than a foot tall. The first and second sets of leaves at the bottom part should not be cut. Leaves to be cut should come from leaf sets found on the middle and upper part of the plant. Basil thrives best when subjected to periodical harvests during summer. Some growers conduct harvesting by hand with no machine or mechanical tools while larger operations use a modified tractor-powered sickle bar/jerry mower. Individual or bulk packing requires hand sorting of basils.
Field production among herb growers in Texas takes up between 10-20 acres of herbs that include basil. Commercial growers do not use herbicides when growing basil. Growing basil is not exclusive to herb growers, since some vegetable growers also grow basil. There are two primary locations for commercial growers of basil: Lower Valley and the Winter Garden region. Besides commercial growers, backyard gardens that produce a considerable harvest of basil target local selling of the product. A plot of 0.1 acre is sufficient to grow and harvest basil.
There are considerable problems growers have to attend to when growing and harvesting basil – pests like the Japanese beetle, disease, leaf blights, and weeds threaten the health and productivity of the basil plant.
When you go to a store, you’ll see basil sold in a variety of ways. For freshly-picked leaves, this is usually found the produce section. A small clamshell plastic container packaging keeps the integrity of the cut leaves intact. You can also see potted basil plants sold in groceries, supermarkets, and garden-nurseries. You buy this to grow your own and become self-sufficient when it comes to the supply of basil leaves. Dried basil is also sold in stores. These are sold either in bottles or inside a vacuum-sealed plastic pack.
Basil is ubiquitous in today’s diet. It is used as an excellent topping for both savory and sweet food like pizza and ice cream. Thinly-sliced basil leaves go well with pasta. You can blend it and make basil sauce, or puree it to make basil soup. Basil is included in salad recipes and is also used as a garnish for toast that carries complimentary flavor, like avocado. Fresh basil leaves are also used in making basil tea.
We eat basil because it provides our food with great flavor. But we also use basil for its medicinal potency in curing or alleviating a wide variety of illnesses such as:
- Worm infection
- Skin aging
- Liver problem
- Cardiovascular problem
- Inflammation and swelling
After harvest and before delivery to supermarkets and restaurants, basil growers use bulk boxes to store harvested basil and kept in a storage room with a controlled temperature to keep the basil fresh and safe from chill damage.
Freshly cut leaves displayed in stores have a shelf life, sustained by the airconditioned surroundings. It gets pulled out from display when it is past its shelf life and unfit for selling. When you have leftover basil or you are planning to use the fresh-cut basil the next day, the best storage method is by trimming the cut part, putting them in a glass with water, covering it with plastic, and keeping it inside the fridge to keep the leaves from wilting. You can also tuck the leaves inside a rolled towel or freeze the leaves.
When Are Basil in Season in Texas?
To find out when Basil are in season in Texas, please check the seasonal chart below. Why is this important? We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas now.