Our 2023 EFN seed catalogue is now online! 100+ new varieties. Over 40 different growers and foragers from across the country. A million thanks to all who make this possible, especially our amazing seed-house crew!
It's easy to miss wild basil's presence on the landscape, with its slender form and relatively inconspicuous small pink blossoms, along with its tendency to hide among grasses and other plants. But once you come to know it's charms, you might just kick yourself for overlooking it for so long. While it's not actually a basil (Ocimum genus), it is in the same family (Lamiaceae), broadly referred to as the mint family. When I (Nate) first took a close look at it at my farm in Chenango County, New York, I assumed it was some sort of wild mint. Clinopodium vulgare is a perennial member of the family that grows throughout the Northern Hemisphere, in North America, Eurasia, and North Africa. Earlier taxonomists placed it in both the savory genus (Satureja) and the calamint genus (Calamintha), but now it's considered the type-species for its own genus.
The leaves of wild basil are used as an aromatic herb for culinary applications and to make a pleasant herbal tea. They can also be used in the preparation of both a brown and a yellow dye. It has a number of traditional medicinal uses as well, including as an astringent, a cardiac stimulant, an expectorant, and to reduce flatulence and increase perspiration. According to Wikipedia, it has been used traditionally in Bulgaria for the healing of wounds and has been shown to have anti-bacterial properties.
GROWING TIPS: Seeds take roughly two weeks to germinate and benefit from exposure to light (so surface sow) and temperatures around 68 degrees F. Plants will thrive in a number of environments, but its typical wild habitat is dry grassland and heathland, usually on limestone or chalky soils.