Basil, the King of Herbs!

Mon, Jun 7, 2010


Herbs are fantastic for flavoring our foods. Basil has been considered the “King” of herbs around the culinary world for quite sometime due to the great versatility it has, being able to give a relatively plain dish a bit of oomph weather it be sweet, savory, salty or sour. The name basil even means “King” in Greek!

, Iran, other tropical regions of Asia and parts of Africa can be thanked for being the origin of this wonderful herb. It has been cultivated in that part of the world for over 5000 years. India has the oldest record of basil that has been found to date.

Basil is a symbol of love in Italy, but represented hatred in ancient Greece. An African legend claims that basil wards off scorpions. The Ancient Egyptians used the seeds of the basil plant in embalming. In many orthodox churches, basil is used in the preparation of holy water. It’s said that in Romania if a girl gives a boy a sprig of basil and he accepts, they are then engaged.

wise, basil contains phosphorus, potassium, vitamins A and C, calcium, iron and magnesium. Because of the high amount of vitamin A, it’s believed to improve eyesight, healthy hair and skin. Basil oil also is thought to contain antioxidants, anti-cancer, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties. In India, basil is used as a treatment for stress, asthma and diabetes.

The basil leaf excretes a smell, that when bruised, will keep flies away as well as when the seeds or dried stalks are burned will repel mosquitoes.  It’s also thought that adding basil to your bath will revitalize you and a sprig of the herb under your pillow is supposed to help you get a good nights sleep.

As for cooking with basil, it’s most commonly found in Mediterranean and Asian cooking. There are more than 60 varieties of basil, many of which give a different flavor such as lemon basil, anise basil, cinnamon basil and the most popular, sweet basil. It’s suggested to add basil to a dish at the end of the cooking time, as the heat can destroy the flavor.

In Taiwan fresh basil is added to soups to thicken it or fried to go with fried chicken. It also is steeped in cream or milk to give ice cream and chocolates flavor. Commonly, flat-leaf basil is used along with fruits such as strawberries, raspberries or plums.

As you can see, basil is an herb that is used in many different ways and with many different things. This herb is fantastic for creating new flavors to old ideas. Next time you grab some of those basil leafs, remember this:

“I considered contrasts—what can I put in there that will make the drink unique and complex? I added lemon juice (sour), Cointreau (sweet, with an orange flavor that complements the rye and the amontillado), and, for the kicker, muddled basil. It sounds counterintuitive, but the fresh, spicy mintiness of the basil added just the right lift to what might otherwise have been a little ponderous and heavy.” -  Jordan Mackay, A Cocktail Is Born: How to make a great drink

Photo by Darny

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This post was written by:

Rochelle - who has written 324 posts on Made in Kitchen Blog.

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3 Responses to “Basil, the King of Herbs!”

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