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Basil (ocimum basilicum)

Basil is a one the essential ingredients of Pesto; and various varieties are used in the Far East under different guises - and with flavour variations "bai horapha" (a variation of sweet basil), "bai kaprow" (purple basil) and "bai manglak" (lemon basil) to give them their Thai names.

It was the chief herb of the ancient Greeks, who called it "basilkon" signifying royalty, and is a sacred herb in areas of India.

It is reputed to have insect repelling properties - so try having a few plants by a frequently used window, or next to your tomato plants.

Basil can be tricky to grow outside without a greenhouse, in Britain, as it likes warmth, but draughts or breezes will make its leaves go black. See 'Pesto'

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