Digital Dimdima
-By Rani Iyer

Almost every home in India has the traditional Tulasi plant. Called Ocimum sanctum in Latin, it belongs to family Lamiaceae. Ocimum species are commonly known as Basil. It is related to herbs like: mint, oregano, thyme and sage. The manner in which we use this plant is different from how the plant is used world over. While Basil is eaten as a culinary herb all over the world, in India it is worshipped. And while the world is busy disputing the taste of the Basil, tradition has discovered it's best secret yet. In ancient days, water with a few Basil leaves was given to tired weary travelers. It quenched the thirst, and refreshed them instantly!
The essential oil in the leaves of Basil gives it the thirst quenching property.

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The chemicals in the essential oil varied with climate, soil and genetic type. The leaves supply anti-oxidants and many other essential compounds.
There are many types of Basil used all over the world. Sweet Basil, cinnamon Basil, camphor Basil, anis Basil, Mexican spice Basil, Thai lemon Basil, lime Basil, Mediterranean Basil and Thai sacred Basil are well known. Most of these are used in cooking, while a few of them are used for medicinal purposes.
Genus Ocimum is widespread over Asia, Africa and Central and Southern America; it appears to have its center of diversity in Africa. The O. gratissimum (tree Basil, also called South-East Asian tree Basil), is distributed over the tropics of Africa and Asia. It has large leaves that smell of cloves and are covered by soft hair. Basil was probably cultivated first in India. The genus name Ocimum originates from Greek verb ózein "smell". The name Basil is also from Greek word basileús "king", because of the royal fragrance of this herb.
Leaves of Basil are harvested before flowering and used fresh while cooking. Dry Basil leaves lose flavour and essential oils. The best way to store the Basil leaves over a long time is to freeze them.
The leaves of sacred Basil contain many important chemicals that help to rebuild our cells. As we cross the path of the plant during our daily routine, let us not forget to put a clean leaf in our mouth and chew it.

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