Sweet Basil Herb

Sweet basil herb is very popular in Thai and Italian cuisine.

Scientific name: Ocimum Basilicum

Other name: Common Basil, St. Josephwort

Sweet basil is from the Labiate family, the same as mint. It is native to India and remains of basil wreaths have been found in Egyptian burial chambers. So basil was used by ancient civilizations.

To the Hindus in India, basil is a holy plant. The name basil comes from an old French word basile.

This old world aromatic herb is cultivated the world over. It is a perennial plant that can grow up to about 16 inches tall and it has dark green leaves. The white flowers grow in whorls at the end of leave shoots and at the axis of leaves. Crushed leaves have a sweet aromatic scent and they taste pungently spicy with a hint of clove and mint. Fresh leaves are more aromatic than dried leaves.

Ancient Greeks hated basil, equating it with scorpions and other unpleasant things. Ancient Romans on the other hand equated it with love and fertility.

The Italians use sweet basil a lot usually in dishes that have tomatoes. Thais also love using this herb in their cooking.

Chopped fresh basil imparts a sweet scented, minty aroma when sprinkled over baked chicken, lamb and fish. Traditional pesto is made with basil. Crush dried leaves with hands or in a mortar and pestle to release the herb's flavor before using it to cook. The fresh herbs can be used in salads, gravies, pork, veal, mutton and fish dishes. When cooked in vegetarian dishes, basil adds a new dimension to them.

Medicinal uses: Basil is recommended for use in treating digestive disorders. It can soothe pain and promote perspiration. Nursing mothers can eat basil to promote production of breast milk. This herb also has a sedative effect.

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