Tulsi is the common Tamil or Hindu name for Ocimum sanctum L. In India, tulsi is referred to as the “Queen of Herbs." You may know this herb by its English common names holy basil or sacred basil. Tulsi is on the Food and Drug Administration’s “Generally Regarded as Safe” list.
Tulsi is an annual, herbaceous plant native to Australia, India, Malaysia and western Asia. An annual plant only needs one year, or growing season, to complete its life cycle. According to Dr. James Simon from the Horticulture Department at Purdue University, tulsi is the most sacred plant to Hindus.
You can grow tulsi in your summer garden. It adds a mild clove flavor to foods and goes well tossed into a spring mix salad or atop fresh garden gazpacho. Leonard Perry, extension professor at the University of Vermont, recommends sowing the seeds indoors eight to ten weeks before transplanting them outside. Tulsi is sensitive to cold temperatures, so make sure all danger of frost has passed. It thrives in full sunlight, at least six hours a day, and well drained soil. Increase the yield of your tulsi plants by removing the flower spikes as they appear. If the flowers are left to bloom, the plant's life cycle will be complete, and it will stop producing leaves.
Harvest the aromatic leaves from your tulsi plant throughout the growing season. Once your plant reaches the height of 12 inches, grab a scissors. Depending on your needs, you can snip large individual leaves or cut off entire branches where they connect to the main stem. At the end of the growing season, before the first frost, pull up the entire plant. Use the fresh leaves the same day you harvest them because they wilt quickly.
Store your tulsi harvest for later use by drying or freezing the leaves. After you pull your tulsi plants, hang the entire plant upside down by tying a string around the base and hanging it from a nail or hook in a dry place away from the sunlight until it becomes crisp and crumbles when you crush it in your hand.
To freeze the tulsi leaves, place them in a blender or food processor with enough cooking oil to create a paste. Place the paste into an ice cube tray and place in the freezer. Remove the cubes when solid, and store them in the freezer in a sealed bag.
Tulsi, known as ka-prow in Thailand, is one of the essential ingredients in Thai food. It is one of the flavorings used in coconut milk curries. Gai pad gapow, or chicken basil, is also made with tulsi. Use the whole, fresh leaves for this purpose.
Phytochemicals are compounds made by plants that have antioxidant or homone-like actions, according to the American Cancer Society. The Department of Plant Biology and Plant Biotechnology at St. Joseph’s College in India carried out preliminary phytochemical studies on tulsi to determine its constituents. They determined that tulsi contains phenols, tannins, flavonoids, glycosides, steroids, carbohydrates, amino acids, saponin, fixed oils and resin.