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Sweet Basil

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. 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."

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.

 
Visit Monticello’s Online Shop to check for seeds or plants of Sweet Basil.
Growth Type: 
Annual
Color(s): 
White
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: 
August 1, 2003 to September 26, 2003August 16, 2007 to October 5, 2007July 11, 2008 to October 17, 2008October 6, 2009 to November 3, 2009September 14, 2010 to December 1, 2010August 31, 2012 to November 7, 2012July 25, 2013 to October 17, 2013July 17, 2014 to October 17, 2014August 6, 2015 to October 1, 2015July 18, 2018 to October 17, 2018