Clinopodium vulgare, most commonly called wild basil, is part of the mint or Lamiaceae family. It has an easily distinguished appearance that attracts both people and wildlife. Wild basil is a herbaceous flowering plant that is widely used for cooking due to its bright, flavourful taste profile and highly aromatic smell. Aside from tasting delicious, wild basil also has some lesser-known medicinal properties, which make consuming the plant good for you as well.
- Scientific Name: Clinopodium vulgare
- Common Name/s: wild basil
- Family: Lamiaceae
- Origin: native
- Habitat: meadows, the outer rim of forests, dry grassy areas, hedgerows, pastures, roadsides, heaths
- Flowering Season: July to September
Wild Basil Plants: Identifiable Features
Wild basil (Clinopodium vulgare) is a perennial plant that grows and lives for more than two complete season cycles. It is not difficult to recognise, thanks to several distinguishing features that make it stand out from the rest of the mint family.
Stems and Leaves
Clinopodium vulgare has slightly squared stems and short-stalked leaves.
The stems on wild basil plants are often unbranched and grow to be between 20 and 60 centimetres in height. Both the stems and either side of the leaves are hairy.
The leaves grow opposite each other on the plant stem, are oval and are either slightly or bluntly toothed around the edges.
Depending on the season, the wild basil plant produces whorls of relaxed bell-shaped flowers at each stem’s top. The flowers range between light pink, bright violet, and deep purple colour. The whorls of pinkish-purple flowers feature five petals with two lips and five stamens, giving the wild basil plant a unique appearance.
The pink and purple flowers generally bloom during June, July, August, and September depending on the specific region and climate conditions.
Where Does Wild Basil Grow?
The perennial wild basil plant can be found growing in various locations around the world, including Europe, North America, North Africa, and central and western Asia.
This plant naturally grows in meadows, the outer rim of forests, dry grassy areas, hedgerows, pastures, roadsides, and heaths. It prefers to plant its roots in chalky soils or limestone.
Is Wild Basil Edible?
Basil is a common herb that can be bought in grocery stores around the world, so we know that it is edible, but what about wild basil? Is it edible as well? Absolutely! The toothed leaves on a wild basil plant are completely edible and can be consumed raw and fresh from the plant, cooked into your favourite recipes, or dried as a spice.
It even contains healthy vitamins and nutrients like vitamin K, iron, vitamin C, vitamin A, manganese, magnesium, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Common Uses for Clinopodium vulgare
Basil is most commonly used for cooking. However, it can also be used to make essential oils or fragrance oils, and flowers are also commonly used to make dyes.
Basil also possesses medicinal qualities and has been credited with strengthening weak digestion, improving blood circulation, bringing on the release of milk in new nursing mothers, working as an expectorant, relieving flatulence, and even constricting skin cells when used as a topical astringent.
How do you use wild basil? Do you have any tips to share? Let us know in the comments below.