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Ocimum basilicum

When Thomas Jefferson was serving as U.S. President, his mâitre d'hôtel, Étienne Lemaire, bought basil at the Washington market and it was cooked with venison.1 In a letter written in February 1820, 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."2

Ocimum was the Greek word for the aromatic herb called basil in English. Although native to tropical Asia, sweet basil has been cultivated for thousands of years throughout Europe with references in Britain as early as the 1400s.3 Basil was common in America by the late 1700s. Philadelphia nurseryman Bernard McMahon listed basil seed for sale on his 1810 broadsheet.

This is a tender annual herb with aromatic, edible foliage and white flowers in terminal spikes on the branches.

- Peggy Cornett, n.d.

Further Sources

Growth Type: 
Hardiness Zones: 
Zone 1, Zone 2, Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5, Zone 6, Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9, Zone 10
Location at Monticello: 
Vegetable Garden
Planting Conditions: 
Full Sun
Blooming History: 
2003 Aug 1 to 2003 Sep 262007 Aug 16 to 2007 Oct 52008 Jul 11 to 2008 Oct 172009 Oct 6 to 2009 Nov 32010 Sep 14 to 2010 Dec 12012 Aug 31 to 2012 Nov 72013 Jul 25 to 2013 Oct 172014 Jul 17 to 2014 Oct 172015 Aug 6 to 2015 Oct 12018 Jul 18 to 2018 Oct 17
Visit Monticello’s Online Shop to check for seeds or plants of Basil.


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