HibiscusWritten by Judi Singleton
There are over a 200 kinds of hibiscus. They grow all over world. They have been associated with Goddess as Rose of Sharon variety. They have a long history. Not surprising as they are beautiful and used for many medicinal purposes.
If your hibiscus has dull medium green heart shaped leaves, dinner plate sized white, pink or red flowers with HUGE, bomb shaped buds (2-4" in length!), it is a perennial, hardy hibiscus.
Hardy hibiscus need very little care over winter, they are root hardy to about zone 5 with no protection. They die to ground each year. Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa), also known as roselle, is a flowering shrub in plant family of Malvaceae and is commonly used species of hibiscus for tea. The calyces are used to make cold and hot beverages in many of world's tropical and subtropical countries. The calyces (or calyxes) are used which are outer portion of flower bud. The calyces are often referred to as hibiscus flowers in recipes and tea blends. It is also a great contribution to popular rosehip tea giving it a lemony flavor and lovely red color. The aroma and taste of Hibiscus is slightly of berry-like aroma. It has a well balanced, tart and astringent flavor.
Hibiscus were once called shoe-black, "indicating use of its flowers by tropical bootblacks, to polish shoes." (Taylor's Encyclopedia of Gardening, 1961) This was single reliable reference to this use author could discover. Nor could this author allow such a claim to stand without attempting experimentation.One red flower (five petals removed from calyx, stamens, and pistil) did one shoe. The red petals became liquefied and slimy under pressure against leather. The liquid dried and could be buffed within minutes. The right shoe of an old pair of black business shoes now appears much shinier than its 'sinister' counterpart. The tips of thumb, index, and middle finger of my right hand were also a dark purple until liquid detergent and a brush were applied. Medicinal Uses
Medicinally, leaves are emollient, and are much used in Guinea as a diuretic, refrigerant, and sedative; fruits are antiscorbutic; leaves, seeds, and ripe calyces are diuretic and antiscorbutic; and succulent calyx, boiled in water, is used as a drink in bilious attacks; leaves and powdered seeds are eaten in West Africa. Philippines use bitter root as an aperitive and tonic. Angolans use mucilaginous leaves as an emollient and as a soothing cough remedy.
Basil for EverythingWritten by Judi Singleton
I planted three kinds of basil today. I love basil it is one of those herbs that just is is truly indispensible in kitchen. Ocimum basilicum, Sweet Basil, is most common. Two or three plants will keep you in fresh Basil all summer, and give you plenty to dry for winter. The flavor is great, but deteriorates some after plant flowers. Let a stalk or two go to seed for next years crop. Purple basils: have dark purple serrated leaves, pink flowering; good for cooking. 'Purple ruffles' is an example that is good for salad vinegars. East Indian: has a spicy clove-like aroma and flavor; good with tomatoes and curries.Thai basil: is anise flavored and used in Indian and Thai cooking. I also planted some seeds of a globe variety of basil Bush basils: are compact rounded plants, have tiny leaves, good flavor. Examples are 'spicy globe', 'bush' and 'tiny leaf purple'.Try different kinds There are many different kinds of basil that are fun to grow. I like to look for ones with tiny leaves, and purple-leafed kind, and also spicy basil. Basil is a polymorph, meaning it occurs in many different forms, varieties and closely related species. The different types are easily hybridized, producing many different kinds of plants with different essential oil constituents and compositions. There are cinnamon, lemon, clove and licorice scented basils; purple and green, curly and lettuce leafed varieties. Dwarf bush types with tiny leaves are grown as ornamental plants. Sweet Basil, Ocimum basilicum is an herbaceous member of mint family. It is basil most commonly grown. It is a delicate herb with a bold aroma and flavor, containing about 1% essential oil which has an intense, spicy-sweet, aroma and a slight anise-like undertone. Often associated with Italian cuisine, basil is native to region surrounding Mediterranean Sea. Popular as a seasoning and easy to grow, basil is cultivated and used throughout world. Basil will flourish in your garden or in a pot on a sunny windowsill as long as it gets lots of warmth, water and sun. Pinch flowers The minute you see flowers, get rid of them. The plant should keep flourishing with hearty leaves thereafter. Pinch your basil back to keep it small and tender even if you are not eating it as fast as it can grow. Last year mine was too top heavy for its root base and tended to fall over on anything unfortunate enough to be nearby. Snails and slugs absolutely love basil, and will devour young tender sprouting basil voraciously. I start my basil indoors so that it's not as much of a problem. I put it in pots outdoors but I surround pots each night with pans of beer. It has been so wet here this Spring that I had about 40 slugs a night just around one basil plant.
Common basil pests are aphids, Japanese beetles and slugs. Knock off aphids with a spray of water, hand pick off Japanese beetles and drop into soapy water. For slugs, put out small containers of beer to attract them to their "fatal beer swim". Basils are also susceptible to fungal leaf spot (caused by poor drainage, high humidity), fusarium wilt, and cucumber mosaic virus (transmitted by aphids). In garden, basil is a fine ornamental and has a long history as a companion plant; it's supposed to improve growth and flavor of tomatoes and help repel flying insects. Basil can be grown best in zones 4-10 and prefer warm soils and climate. Start seeds indoors six weeks before last frost date in a moist medium at 80 degrees F. Or start seeds outdoors after soil is warm. Plant in well-drained soil with a little compost tilled in or add a small amount of balanced organic fertilizer. Optimum soil ph is 5.5 - 7.5. Space plants 12-18 inches apart. You can snip fresh basil leaves into a pasta dish or salad and have your aromatherapy and eat it too!
Basil Lore Cultivated since antiquity, basil originated in India, where it was regarded as a sacred herb. The name comes from Greek basileus meaning 'king.' In India, Hindus believed that if a leaf of basil was buried with them, it would get them into heaven. Basil was also sacred to Gods Krishna, and Vishnu and is still found growing around temples. In Italy, basil was used as a signal for love; a pot of basil placed on balcony meant that a woman was ready for her suitor to arrive. In England, basil was used to ward off insects and evil spirits. Basil is a part of religious traditions around world, from Christianity to Hindu. Although there is no mention of basil in Bible (21), plant is said to have grown at site of Christ's crucifixion (21, 24) and is associated with St. Basil, whose feast day is celebrated in Greece on January 1 by having basil blessed at church (21, 45).
Holy basil, Ocimum tenuiflorum, is particularly sacred in Hindu tradition. It is thought to be manifestation of goddess, Tulasi, and to have grown from her ashes. There are several versions of legend, but according to a widely known one, Tulasi was tricked into betraying her husband when she was seduced by god Vishnu in guise of her husband. In her torment, Tulasi killed herself, and Vishnu declared that she would be "worshipped by women for her faithfulness" and would keep women from becoming widows (37). Thus, holy basil, which also goes by common name tulsi, an obvious reference to goddess, became a Hindu symbol of love, eternal life, purification and protection (21, 30, 37). In addition to basil's role in death of Tulasi in Hindu legend, basil has played a role in burial rituals and has been grown on graves in various countries. Love and Courtship Basil's love symbolism isn't limited to India. It has been considered an aphrodisiac by some, is associated with pagan love goddess, Erzuli (20, 56 in 75), and is used in love spells (20). In Italy, where sweet basil is called "kiss me Nicholas," "bacia-nicola," it is thought to attract husbands to wives (21), and a pot of basil on a windowsill is meant to signal a lover (75). In Moldavian folklore, if a man accepts a sprig of basil from a woman, he will fall in love with her (21). As is typical for its folklore, while being linked to love and attraction, basil has also conversely been associated with chastity. In Sicilian folklore, basil is associated with both love and death when basil sprouts from head of [L]isabetta of Messina's slain lover (21).
Protection and Luck Basil is considered a good luck charm in some folklore. It is reportedly used in exorcisms, for protection and to attract wealth (20, 26, 75).
Language of Flowers Basil's symbolism in Victorian language of flowers also reflects its dual nature. It signifies both hatred (for common basil) and best wishes (for sweet basil) (34). History & Folklore Basil has a long and interesting history steeped in legend. Probably originating in Asia and Africa (73), it is thought to have been brought to ancient Greece by Alexander Great (356-323 B.C.E.), to have made its way to England from India in mid 1500s and arrived in U.S in early 1600s (21). It was grown in medieval gardens (18, 40) and is mentioned in many classic herbals, including those of Culpeper, Gerard, Parkinson and Dioscorides (19, 33, 64).