Very excited to hear from Victoria, via Esther’s Boring Gardening Blog, that Basil will grow best when nurtured with frequent cursing. I knew I was doing something right, and it’s nice to be reassured that among all my amateurism and bodging, there’s one essential gardening technique in which I’m truly proficient. (My cursing is not aimed at the basil in particular, but is just the part of the nurturing atmosphere I aim to create around my plants.)


For those of you who’d like to try this at home, Victoria tells us (via a conversation on vituperation) that in Ancient Greece, “basil was the symbol of vituperation” and she’d heard “you were supposed to swear at it when you planted it.” So, the question is: has anyone successfully grown basil without an attentive curse or two?

The Romans (and I believe modern Italians) disagree, associating basil with love, while in parts of Europe it’s a symbol of Satan.

Other theories I’m yet to explore include the one that claims it, if “wrung and bruised would breed scorpions.” Culpepper cites Hilarius, a French physician, who “affirms upon his own knowledge, that an acquaintance of his, by common smelling to it, had a scorpion breed in his brain.” Not sure how much store I set by the say-so of a chap called Hilarius though.

I’ve got a bit of thing about basil at the moment, with nine types growing well and six more lined up to sow, so there’s plenty more scope to hone my cussing.