In ancient times, basil was worshipped as a sacred plant and was only used for special religious ceremonies. Fortunately, today this tasty herb is used for all sorts of dishes, especially Meditteranean cuisine.
Basil originally comes from the Middle East, but it was cultivated in ancient Rome. In the Middle Ages, the herb was a must for all monastery gardens. The herbs are currently grown in the Mediterranean, in Hungary, Asia and Indonesia.
Cultivation and Flavour
For basil to develop its unique flavour, it needs a lot of sun - the more, the more intense the flavour will be. The herb belongs to the mint family and is a close relative of mint or sage. The plants have green, relatively large, oval leaves that point slightly upward. From July on, they bloom with white or pink flowers.
Basil is rich in essential oils which are responsible for its distinctive aroma. It tastes fresh, sweet and spicy and has slight pepper note when dried.
In folk medicine, basil is valued for its calming effects on the nervous system. In addition, basil is said to encourage digestion and relieve loss of appetite and other stomach problems.
In the kitchen, basil is used either fresh or in its dried form. Fresh leaves, however, have a much stronger flavour.
Important: always add basil just before the end of cooking time. The essential oils are extremely volatile and lose their flavour quickly when heated.
Tip: Fresh basil can be frozen so that it lasts longer. It is best to cut the leaves into fine strips, mix them with water and freeze them in an ice cube container.