BASIL (Ocimum basilicum)

BASIL - extracted from Patricia G. Solley's pages

Aka "herb royal" and "basilica," this member of the mint family originated in India, called tulasi, and was sacred to the Hindu Gods Krisha and Vishnu. It is traditionally placed on the breast of a dead Hindi. Its current name derives from the Greek basileus, meaning "king." In fact, however, ancient Greek and Roman physicians considered it a symbol of hos-tility and insanity and believed it could only be grown if its seeds were sown amid curses. Likewise, its association with scorpions. Pliny claimed that when it was pounded by a stone, it would transform itself into them, a fairly frightening thought to pesto aficionados.

By contrast, Europeans during the Middle Ages believed it could only be cultivated by a beautiful woman--and it was commonly given and received as a token of romantic love.

Witness the gothic poem by John Keats, based on Boccaccio's morbid story in The Decameron (Fourth Day, Fifth Tale). Here it is that a pair of social climbing Florentine broth-ers disapprove of their sister's lower born lover Lorenzo--and kill him, burying his body in the forest. Sister Isabella is told he has gone away, but one night she sees Lorenzo in a dream, and he reveals his terrible fate. She sets off with her old nurse, finds the grave, digs him up, and brings his severed head back home to bury in a pot of basil. Watering it with her tears,

Whence thick, and green, and beautiful it grew,

So that it smelt more balmy than its peers

Of basil-tufts in Florence; for it drew

Nurture besides, and life, from human fears,

From the fast mouldering head there shut from view:

So that the jewel, safely casketed,

Came forth, and in perfumed leafits spread.

Eventually, the brothers catch on--and flee Florence, taking the basil away from Isabel at the same time. Poor thing. Of course she goes mad and dies.

Certainly unrelated to this story, basil has, from time immemorial, had a reputation for soothing stomach aches and cramps--and assisting digestion. From whence its flavor? The leaves are dotted with tiny oil cells that contain anethole (like anise), estragole (like tarragon), eucalyptol, eugenol (like cloves and allspice), and linalool (like French lavender).

BASIL - extracted from the book  

…. the basil is a cultivated plant in Hungary, which grows about 18 inches high. The plant's stalk is squarish, almost bald, but furry on the upper part. The plant is balsamic scented, which is very pleasant, the taste is slightly salted, spicy, refreshing. The drug is in the plant's upper part above ground, gathered in full bloom. The dried plant pleasantly tart scented, similar to the clove, has a piquant taste, which could replace the clove.

BASIL - extracted from the book

The herb of the Forerunner of our Lord, bazsalik - Basilienkraut. Pleasantly scented, annual herb. …… There are cineol, metilcavicol, linalool, tannic acid, saponin in her essential oil. First of all it is stomachic and appetizer.

BASIL, BASILIE, SWEET BASIL extracted from the pages of Gernot Katzer


Probably India. Today, basil is cultivated in many Asian and Mediterranean countries; main exporters are France, Italy, Morocco and Egypt.

The closely related species Ocimum minimum (small-leaved basil) is less known as a garden plant, but its fragrance, though indistinguishable from the Mediterranean type, is even stronger.

Basil is one of the most pleasant spices, and indispensable for several Mediterranean cuisines. The sweet and aromatic fragrance is especially popular in Italy. Since cooking quickly destroys the delicate aroma of basil, chopped basil leaves are frequently sprinkled over cold or warm dishes before serving. A famous recipe often found outside of Italy is "Insalata Caprese" (Capri salad): Tomato slices topped with creamy mozarella cheese and basil leaves, seasoned with aceto balsamico (balsam vinegar) and highest quality olive oil.

The famous pesto is a speciality of Liguria, a region in North Western Italy. This paste is made from fresh basil leaves, together with extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts, the famous Italian cheese called parmigiano and garlic; it is served with Italian noodles. Besides tasting excellent, pesto is also efficient in conserving basil, even without deep-freezer (although it does keep better frozen).

The recipe for pesto can be generalised to other herbs; for example, pesto made from bear's garlic tastes great and also solves the problem of conserving this spice. Very extravagant pesto can be prepared from chervil or lemon balm. Frankfurt Green Sauce is an example of a similar sauce employing a mixture of seven herbs.

In Italian cuisine, basil is frequently combined with tomatoes, e.g. together with pickled olives, capers and garlic for tasty tomato sauces. Salads made only from tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar and basil are simple but delicious. Basil is, though, less used for meat dishes; Italian cooks prefer oregano for this purpose.

Fresh basil may also form part of bouquet garni, mostly in Italy.

Similar use is made of basil in the Far East; it is especially popular in Vietnam and Thailand. Every visitor to Bangkok who dared to try local cuisine will probably never forget the phantastic basil aroma that emanates from nearly every pot at the numerous food-stalls. The basic ideas of Thai cookery are revealed in "gai pad bai krapow", chicken with chiles and basil: Despite a searing and truly hellish hotness, the dish provides heavenly pleasures by its fine basil odour.

When using basil in South East Asian recipes, one should consider that the basil varieties grown there have a much different taste than the Mediterranean herb predominantly available in the West; true Thai basil (bai horapa) is, though, available in Thai food stores.

Basil - Penzeys Spices - Catalog of Sesoning -

The most popular herb in America, basil was virtually unknown outside of Southern Europe 30 years ago. Basil that was dried or dehydrated under less than ideal conditions lost its sweetness and took on strong woody overtones. Dehydrators now use partial vacuums to lower the temperature at which water evaporates, so basil can be grown under ideal conditions, dried, and shipped anywhere. The flavour is almost addictive and there is little that a bit of basil can't improve. Known as a tomato's best friend, it is also delicious on chicken, fish, pasta, stew, salads and vegetables. Add basil in the last 10 minutes of cooking as heat will dissipate its sweet, rich flavour. California Basil is a little stronger than the French, due mainly to better dehydration technology, though the French basil has a bit of anise flavour many people enjoy.

BASIL - extracted from the pages of One Planet -

Also called SWEET BASIL, spice consisting of the dried leaves of Ocimum basilicum, an annual herb of the family Lamiaceae (Labiatae) native to India and Iran. A number of varieties are used in commerce including the small-leaf common basil, the larger leaf Italian basil, and the large lettuce-leaf basil. The dried large-leaf varieties have a fragrant aroma faintly reminiscent of anise, and a warm, sweet, aromatic, mildly pungent flavour. The dried leaves of the common basil are less fragrant and more pungent in flavour. Basil is widely grown as a kitchen herb. It is used as a seasoning for pizza, spaghetti sauce, sausage, soup, tomato juice, dressings, and salads. Many Italian cooks prefer to use basil instead of oregano. Basil is also a common flavoring in Thai cuisine.. Tea made from basil leaves is a stimulant. The essential oil content is 0.1 percent, the principal components of which are methyl chavicol and d-linalool.

Over 150 varieties of basil are grown. Basil originated in India, where it was regarded as a sacred herb. The name comes from the Greek basileus meaning 'king.' Once people were no longer fearful of this herb, it was said to be "fit for a king's house." In Haiti basil is thought to belong to the pagan love goddess Erzulie, and in Italy it has been regarded as a sign of love. Basil is native to India but is grown commercially all over the Mediterranean region and in California. With an aroma that is like mint and tea, it blends well with tomatoes and is essential in most tomato-sauced Italian dishes. The botanical name for basil is derived from the Greek "to be fragrant," even though many Greeks disliked basil. They believed that scorpions bred under basil pots and one Greek writer insisted that basil existed "only to drive men insane." In India, however, Hindus believed that if a leaf of basil were buried with them, it would serve as their passport to heaven.

Dr. József Nagy – There is a herb garden in my balcony

This is a very characteristic plant with his typical shape and specific scent giving a vital dash of color to your balcony or roof-garden. It is photophilous and feels the cold (under +1 C will instantly die). It needs much watering, about 40-60 cms high, with weedy stalks. It needs the same soil conditions as the marjoram likes. You can grow them in containers in various places, in raised beds and in hydroponics. In this last case you have to grow bed plants firstly. Seed it in the late May 2-3 cms deep. You may do it thickly, about 3-5 cms from each, or sparsely, which means in 15-20 cms from each other. If you do the latter, seed 2 or 3 together. In the thick plantation, when the plants are 10-12 cms high, thin out them to 15-30 cms distance. Use the picked up seedlings in hydroponics or in other containers.
Use the fresh basil leaves and young stems for flavoring and decoration salads and dishes. For this purpose cut 10 – 15 cms long stems or unhurt leaves all the year round. If you like to dry them gather stems above the first forking when the first flowers are just open (not later, because the huge amount of seeds have some unpleasant flavor). New stems will grow soon to replace the cut ones, so you will have fresh leaves continuously until the first ground frost in late autumn. Dry and grind like the marjoram.

Bazsalikom - Martin Stangl - "The garden is my hobby"

Annual herb with balsamic essential oils, and is especially scented. A few leaves are enough to flavor soups, salads, tomato, meat and fish dishes, and even pickled cucumbers.
If you add a fresh sprig of basil to a leek or potato soup, then purée it with a mixer, you will have instantly a soup with pleasant greenish color, and what a scent! This herb needs more sunshine than others, and many-many warmth. As it is very frost-tender, seed in cold-frame, or into a flowerpot, a bowl, or a window-box in the windowsill in April. Later transplant the small seedlings into small flowerpots. You can seed them at the end of April into a plastic covered bed too. After blackthorn winter transplant 3 – 5 seedlings at 25 cms distance into your herb-garden from which you can cut sprigs during the summertime. Keep some plants in your balcony, or at hot windowsills as close to your kitchen as possible.



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