Basil, a member of the mint family, is quite often associated with Mediterranean cooking. The Greeks considered Basil the “royal herb”. Basil stems from the Greek word of basilikon, meaning royal. Basil was considered to be sacred. It was blessed by a priest, and women were not allowed to pick it. Basil is native to India.
There are approximately 60 different types of basil, including sweet basil, spicy basil, opal basil, holy basil, Thai basil, lemon basil, cinnamon basil, and chocolate basil.
Basil has round, or lance shaped leaves that are greenish, reddish, or purplish. They bloom small stalks of white flowers. It is a very fragile herb that bruises easily. Basil is highly fragrant. Basil’s flavor can be described as licorice, cloves and anise. Heat can destroy basil’s flavor.
Basil is common in Mediterranean, Thai, and Laotian cuisines. It is very prominent in French, and Italian cooking. Basil has an affinity for tomatoes. The most common dish made with basil is pesto. Pesto is a combination of basil, Parmesan cheese, and pine nuts. This is the traditional form of pesto, however, there are many variations of the recipe, some including olive oil, and garlic. Pesto originated in Genoa.
Basil is an antispasmodic, antiseptic, a tonic, and a stomachic. It helps fight migraines, aids with digestive problems and helps insomnia.