Basil - The Royal Herb

Isabella and the Pot of Basil, William Holman Hunt, 1868
Isabella and the Pot of Basil, William Holman Hunt, 1868

The term "basil" is derived from the Latin basilius and the Greek v (basilikón phutón), which means "royal/kingly plant," presumably because of the plant's use in the creation of royal perfumes. Basil is sometimes referred to as "l'herbe royale" ('the royal herb') in French.

Basil is an annual or perennial herb that is grown for its leaves. Its leaves are dark green and oval, although depending on the cultivar, they come in a wide range of sizes and shapes.

Where does basil grow?

Basil is native to India and other tropical countries spanning from Africa to Southeast Asia, but thanks to human cultivation, it has spread around the world.

Basil is a cold-sensitive plant that thrives in hot, dry environments. If there is a danger of frost, it behaves like an annual. Basil is grown in many countries throughout the world because of its popularity. Countries in the Mediterranean region, those in the temperate zone, and those in subtropical climates are among the production areas.

Basil grows best when sown under glass in a peat pot and planted out in late spring/early summer (when there is little chance of frost) in Northern Europe, Canada, the northern states of the United States, and the South Island of New Zealand; however, in these climates, it can also thrive when planted outside.

Culinary Information

Fresh basil is the most popular type of basil used in cooking. Cooking quickly degrades the flavour, therefore it's usually applied last. After blanching quickly in boiling water, the fresh herb can be preserved for a short time in plastic bags in the refrigerator or for a longer time in the freezer.

Pesto is an Italian sauce made primarily of olive oil and basil. Basil is one of the essential components. It's also a key component of the popular marinara sauce from Italy and the United States. [requires citation] Fresh or dried basils are often used in Chinese soups and other dishes. Fresh basil leaves are added to thick soups in Taiwan. They also eat fried chicken with basil leaves that have been deep-fried. Basil (most frequently Thai basil) is soaked in cream or milk to give ice cream or chocolates an unusual flavour (such as truffles). The leaves of basil aren't the only portion used in cooking; the flower buds have a more delicate flavour and are edible.


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