It is a favourite with French cooks, who have traditionally used its leaves in soups and salads. Most of
the cultivated varieties of basil from Asia have a stronger taste than the the European varieties.
Basil is a very common ingredient in Thai, Vietnamese and chinese cooking. Due to its strong flavor
similar to the anise (Pimpinella anisum), it is used as a condiment for curry and soups.
It is often used in Mediterranean cooking, where it is used in various meat stews. It can consumed
fresh or dry to decorate many salads, vegetable soups and sauces. - the famous Italian sauce of pesto
uses basil as the main ingredient: mix parmesan cheese, with a similar amount of nuts (generally
almonds, pine nuts or walnuts are used) and add some olive oil and garlic, and your pesto sauce will
give a smooth accompaniment to pasta dishes..
Pistou, popular in Provence and the South of France is a recipe inspired by Italian Pesto, but is
prepared without nuts, to accompany summer vegetable soups, white haricot beans, and pasta.
Basil is also ideal as a fresh aromatic herb with tomatoesa and zucchinis, and is a nice addition to
eggs, fish or poultry. It can go also well with garlic.
The species Ocimum tenuiflorum, known as Holy Basil, is a sacred herb in India. Although basil is not
used for culinary purposes as food in India, the leaves are used to prepare a herbal tea-like remedy
which is thought to be helpful for colds or flu. A tonic wine can also be made from the leaves.
The fresh herb will keep for 2 days in your refrigerator if wrapped tightly in a cloth. You can also keep it
in a plastic bag in the fridge for similar short periods of time, or for longer periods it can be kept in the
freezer if first scalded quickly in boiling water. Alternatively the fresh leaves can be kept in a jar with a
few pinches of salt, and covered with olive oil.
Essential oils can be extracted by steam distillation. The distilled fresh plant gives an essence
containing eucalyptol and eugenol, and thus can be used as an essential oil for the preparations of
perfumes and liqueurs.
When cooking, the leaves should be separated from their central stems before carving, as the stems
are sometimes quite tough. Crushing the basil leaves with a mortar will burst the cells which contain
the essentail oils, and thus will liberate the aromas and flavours better.
If purchasing basil bunches, they should be firm and green. Alternatively, if you are using basil from
your own potted or garden plant, you can harvest your basil crop until Autumn.