Ocimum basilicum Linn. Labiatae. Sweet Basil.
Western and tropical Asia. A fragrant and aromatic plant of tropical Asia, which, as a culinary plant, has been celebrated from a very early period. Mclntosh says it was condemned by Chrysippus more than 200 years before Christ as an enemy to the sight and a robber of the wits. Diodorus and Hollerus entertained equally superstitious notions regarding it. Philistis, Plistonicus and others extolled its virtues and recommended it as strongly as it had been formerly condemned. Pliny says the Romans sowed the seeds of this plant with maledictions and ill words, believing the more it was cursed the better it would prosper; and when they wished for a crop, they trod it down with their feet and prayed to the gods that it might not vegetate. It seems to have been first cultivated in Britain in 1548 and is now valued for the leaves and leafy tops, which are much employed for seasoning soups, stews, sauces and various other dishes. It reached America before 1806 as it is then mentioned by McMahon as a well-known plant. Sweet basil seeds, according to Miss Bird, are eaten in Japan.
Ocimum gratissimum Linn.
East Indies. This species is recorded as indigenous in India, the South Sea Islands and Brazil. According to Loureiro, it occurs in the kitchen gardens of Cochin China. It was cultivated in England in 1752 by a Mr. Miller. Forskal gives as the Arabic name, hobokbok. In French gardens, this plant is called basilic en arbre. Vilmorin thinks, however, that the French form may be the O. suave Willd., but of this he is not certain.
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World, 1919, was edited by U. P. Hedrick.