Sweet Basil

From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

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Sweet Basil
Sweet Basil

Common Name: Sweet Basil[1]

Scientific Name: Ocimum basilicum

Description: Tender annual herb; Aromatic, edible foliage and white flowers in terminal spikes on the branches

Size: Grows 2 to 3 feet high; bushy habit

Cultural Information: Prefers full sun to light shade and evenly moist but well-drained garden loam

Historical Notes: Ocimum was the Greek word for the aromatic herb called basil in English. Sweet basil has been cultivated for thousands of years throughout the Old World tropics and is also very variable, with different growth forms, colors, and aromas. The leaves are used fresh or dried as a popular and essential culinary seasoning. It was common in America by the late 1700s. Philadelphia nurseryman Bernard McMahon listed basil seed for sale on his 1810 broadsheet. Thomas Jefferson’s neighbor, George Divers of Farmington, noted that he was not able to supply Jefferson with the pot-herbs “Sweet marjoram, sweet basil, or summer savory” in a letter written in February 1820.[2]

Footnotes

  1. This article is based on Peggy Cornett, CHP Information Sheet.
  2. 20 February 1820. Betts, Garden Book, 591.

Further Sources