Sherlock was anything but inconspicuous, very green in his profession, and really quite droopy when the heat was on. He was incapable of clever deductions, witty remarks, or even a marginally British accent. He would have made a terrible detective.

He was, however, a fantastic basil plant.

Most people don’t name their herbs, but sometimes you just get so attached to them, you know?

And Sherlock was one of those memorable guys. His moniker is a result of my (very rational) train of thought: Basil Rathbone was a prominent actor in older Holmes films, and while it’s pronounced differently, it seems to be pointing directly to the necessity of all basil plants hereafter being named for his character.

My Sherlock may not have thrived in regards to mental faculties, but his physical capabilities are legendary. Most basil plants grow to a height of a foot or two, retaining a fairly slender stem, which might grow woody as the plant matures and flowers.

Sherlock, however, was pretty much a tree. I don’t remember how we felled his several feet of herbaceous height, but we probably needed an ax to get through that trunk.

He was Genovese basil, a popular cultivar of sweet basil; while most of the basil varieties we are familiar with are from sweet basil’s family, some are cultivars of other basil species and some are hybrids. Basil does cross-pollinate and hybridize itself easily, so it’s hard to classify types, but there are around 150 recognized varieties.

While all different kinds I’ve ever had retain that distinct basilly aftertone, other flavors and attributes abound in greater variety than you might expect. Lemon, cinnamon, licorice, and clove basils are all rather self-explanatory; as are mammoth, Osmin purple, African blue, and dwarf bush basils.

We usually associate basil with Italian dishes, but it actually originated farther east in India and China. Apparently, it was often important beyond culinary utilization, and carried great cultural symbolic meaning. Sources denote basil featured prominently in Egyptian embalming, Greek mourning, Eastern European sacraments, Hindu shrines, and Portuguese romance.

It’s safe to say it’s a worldwide favorite, and complements a global diversity of cuisines. As a bonus, basil also offers diverse health benefits -- it’s from the mint family, one of the healthiest herbs out there, and is one of those nutrient-dense “dark leafy greens” you always hear about. The essential oils naturally contained in basil feature a variety of antioxidants and phytonutrients, and depending on whom you’re talking to, can treat inflammation and arthritis, ease gastrointestinal distress, and reduce stress while increasing mental clarity.

That last part is hard to argue with, because wow, have you ever held a handful of fresh basil to your face and breathed in deeply?

It’s basil-ically the best.

Amanda Miller writes a column about local foods for The Hutchinson News. She teaches classes at Apron Strings and makes cheese on her family’s dairy farm near Pleasantview. Reach her at