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Jewish Recipes --> Spices and Ingredients --> List of Herbs --> Basil

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) of the Family Lamiaceae is also known as Albahaca, St. Joseph's Wort, and Sweet Basil. It is a tender low-growing annual herb, originally native to tropical Asia. It grows to between twenty and sixty centimeters tall, with opposite, light green, silky leaves one and a half to five centimeters long and one to three centimeters broad. It tastes somewhat like cloves, with a strong, pungent, sweet smell. Basil is very sensitive to cold, with best growth in hot, dry conditions.

The word basil comes from the Greek βασιλευς, meaning “king”, as it is believed to have grown above the spot where St. Constantine and Helen discovered the Holy Cross. The Oxford English Dictionary quotes speculations that basil may have been used in "some royal unguent, bath, or medicine". Basil is still considered the "king of herbs" by many cookery authors.

Basil is most commonly used fresh, and in cooked recipes, is generally added at the last moment, as cooking destroys the flavor quickly. The fresh herb can be kept for a short time in plastic bags in the refrigerator, or for a longer period in the freezer, after being blanched quickly in boiling water. Place fresh leaves in a dry jar with a pinch of salt, and cover with olive oil. The dried herb also loses most of its flavor, and what little flavor remains tastes very different, with a weak coumarin flavor, like hay.

Mediterranean and Thai cuisines frequently use basil, the former frequently combining it with tomato. Basil is one of the main ingredients in pesto — an Italian sauce from the city of Genoa. The most commonly used Mediterranean basil cultivars are "Genovese", "Purple Ruffles", "Mammoth", "Cinnamon", "Lemon", "Globe", and "African Blue". Vietnamese and Chinese also use fresh or dried basils in soups and other foods. In Taiwan, people add fresh "九層塔" basil leaves to thick soups (羹湯). They also eat fried chicken with deep-fried "九層塔" basil leaves.

Basil is sometimes used with fresh fruit and in fruit jams and sauces — in particular with strawberries, but also raspberries or dark-colored plums. Arguably the flat-leaf basil used in Vietnamese cooking, which has a slightly different flavor, is more suitable for use with fruit.

When soaked in water the seeds of several basil varieties become gelatinous, and are used in Asian drinks and desserts such as falooda or sherbet. Such seeds are known variously as sabja, subja, takmaria, tukmaria, or falooda seeds. They are used for their medicinal properties in Ayurveda, the traditional medicinal system of India.

 

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Sept 2005 - 2013 - Kosher Recipes - Kosher Cooking - Jewish Cooking - Jewish Recipes - Jewish Foods