Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

Native to Asia this "king of herbs" is one of the most widely used herbs in the world. Basil has a warm spicy smell and pungent flavor (similar to licorice and cloves), that does wonders for a Mediterranean cookery.

Best known as the base of Italian PESTO SAUCE of Genoa and a similar sauce called Pistou in France, basil becoming more and more popular in American cuisine.

Basil combines well with olive oil, garlic, tomatoes and lemon, both raw and cooked. Basil leaves give a wonderful flavor to a tomato salad and tossed green salad. It is better to tearing rather than chopping the leaves as this helps to retain more flavor. You can put basil in omelets and other egg dishes. Mix basil with olive oil and garlic and stir it into hot pasta. Put basil in eggplant dishes, potatoes, rice, beans, sauces for fish, veal, lamb and chicken or arrange whole basil leaves over a pizza.

In hot dishes is best to use only a little during a cooking and add the rest at the last minute, because prolonged cooking reduces aroma and flavor.
Known best for its culinary use, basil has also earned a considerable symbolic and medicinal reputation, particularly in Asia and Europe. In India it is sacred to Vishnu; in Jewish lore the herb provided strength during fasts. For the Greeks basil has symbolized hate, for Italians it has symbolized love and for French royalty.

Apart from the Sweet basil or Garden basil (used for all Western cooking) there are many other types of basil:

Real Cooking

Did You Know?
Sweet basil is the most common and popular basil, used for all Western cooking.

Medicinal Use:
In ancient China, basil tea has been used to treat stomach problems. It was also used for fighting dental plaque, calming the nerves, regulating menstruation and reducing fever. Although little evidence exist to support many of basil's applications, studies have confirmed effectiveness for its most common use: the relief of flatulence. It was also found that basil oil is slightly antiseptic, but it is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women and children.

Basil is easy to grow, and its minty licorice fragrance perks up any garden. If you don't have a garden, you can grow basil in window box or in a planter. To find out more about growing herbs visit our page Growing Culinary Herbs.

Basil has a comprehensive list of cultivated varieties (cultivars). They are used in a variety of ways: as culinary herbs, landscape plants, healing herbs, teas, and for worship. All true basils are species of genus Ocimum. The genus is particularly diverse, and includes annuals, non-woody perennials and shrubs native to Africa and other tropical and subtropical regions of the Old and New World.