Basil – An Aromatic Member Of The Mint Family
Basil is an aromatic annual, a member of the Lumiaceae family also known as the mint family. There are many forms of this versatile herb; however, the large leaved succulent form known as sweet basil is the most popular for culinary use, with an aroma resembling that of clove and anise.
The herb has its origin in India where it was considered sacred. The herb is also known to be native to Iran and Africa and known to have been used in Egypt, Greece and Rome. Because the herb does not grow, and thrive well in the cooler climates of Europe it has more culinary popularity in the Mediterranean, Asia, Australia, and North America.
The herb’s name basilikon in Greek means royal perhaps indicating that it was reserved for the use of the kings. The herb was also associated with various mythological lore more so than many other herbs. There were also negative connotations to the herb such as its representation of hate and someone plotting against another person in Greek society.
If the herb has black marks on the leaves or is wilted then the leaves are not good to purchase. The fresh leaves can be frozen and stored for a few weeks.
The dried variety is dark green in color and should be stored in a cool, dark place.
The herb goes well with tomatoes; as a result it is found in many commercial tomato sauce and pasta sauce preparations. The herb also complements vegetables such as eggplant, zucchini, squash, and spinach, and adding the herb to vegetable, peas and lentil soups during the last 30 minutes of cooking the flavor of these soups will be enhanced. The herb goes well with salads and when used in stuffing for poultry, and in addition to soups it goes well with stews and sauces and gravies. It is also a great herb to use when creating salad dressings and for creating pesto.
For further information on basil click on the link to Wikipedia.org
For some great sections on herbs and spices some great references are:
• The Spice and Herb Bible – Second Edition by Ian Hemphill with recipes by Kate Hemphill
• The Food Encyclopedia by Jacques L. Rolland and Carol Sherman with other contributors
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