Basil is called the King of Herbs and like a true royal, Basil has a rich history and as many varieties as the loyal subjects of an emperor. This exotic herb is popular all over the world and has now become a regular ingredient in every day dishes.
In Greece, the word basil means “king” and its power includes healing. The Italians regard it as a symbol of love and in India it is an emblem for hospitality. Basil’s diversity and ability to blend with other herbs to complement a range of dishes make it an herb of choice in kitchens internationally.
Season – summer
How to Buy Basil
Basil comes in an array of sizes, flavors and colors. Even the basic green basil variety can have a different taste. Despite the fact that this culinary herb grows best in sunny weather, it can be found fresh, dried or preserved in oil all year round.
In the produce aisle, look for unwilted leaves with vibrant purples and deep green color. Fresh Basil is best purchased just before you are ready to use it in your recipe as it will only last 2-3 days in the refrigerator. Basil is a great option to grow your own and pinch the intoxicating leaves as you need them.
Varieties of Basil:
– Italian Sweet Basil – Of all the members of the family, this medium-dark green variety is bigger than most. It has a sweet clover flavor that you will taste in many Italian dishes. Hands down, Italian Sweet Basil wears the crown in dishes like Pesto or Basil Fettuccine. Serve your favorite basil enhanced recipes with a hearty Italian or French bread and a glass of table wine.
– African Blue Lemon Basil is one of the lesser known varieties that blends well with parsley, chives and dill. Its very distinct lemon taste adds a fresh zing to teas and chicken dishes.
– Purple Basil is highly aromatic with notes of mint and even clove. Perfect to scent your grains and add gorgeous color to your dishes.
– Mexican Basil, also called Cinnamon Basil is a garden décor favorite with dark green leaves and lavender flowers. As the name implies, it has the scent and flavor of cinnamon. It enhances the palate for pumpkin and sweet potatoes but the favored use is in Mediterranean soups, sauces and salads.
– Siam Queen Thai Basil has a spicy, anise-licorice aroma and flavor. This award winning variety has purple on the reverse leaves and stems with pink blossoms. It heightens the flavor of Thai curry dishes and Vietnamese soups made with rice, noodles and sprouts.
Tips for Cooking with Basil
- Basil has a delicious affinity for berries – get creative with basil and strawberries or raspberries and other fruit syrups.
- Pairings that are perfect for Basil: Cheese, Eggs, Garlic, Tomatoes, Pasta, Olive Oil, Sauces
- The flavor of Basil is very fresh and alive – add it at the end of cooking to open up your dishes.
- Basil is the base for PESTO!
Hungry Goddess says:
Even with my black thumb, I have been able to sustain basil plants. The heady, sweet aroma fills the kitchen and there is nothing like a fresh basil leaf just pinched from a live plant!
Hungry Goddess Recipes with Basil
Where to Buy – Hungry Goddess Approved
Basil is fairly common and easy to find at local markets and grocery stores. A bonus is when you can get a bunch at the Farmers Market and the aroma fills the kitchen! Buy this fresh, fresh, fresh and it is usually found for a good price, especially in summer.
Pounding fragrant things — particularly garlic, basil, parsley — is a tremendous antidote to depression. But it applies also to juniper berries, coriander seeds and the grilled fruits of the chilli pepper. Pounding these things produces an alteration in one’s being — from sighing with fatigue to inhaling with pleasure. The cheering effects of herbs and alliums cannot be too often reiterated.
Patience Gray – Cookery Author