Cooking Basil
Culinary uses of the Herb

Basil can be dried or used fresh, simlar to many other pot-herbs. It is best used fresh, as drying it will lose its perfume and quite a bit of flavour. Periods of sustained heat from cooking will reduce the herb's aroma, so for hot dishes it should be added just before serving, in order to preserve its sharp and fresh flavour. If you tear the leaves you will generally get a better flavour than chopping them with a knife. Basil combines well with parsley, thyme and rosemary, but apart from these is difficult to mix with other herbs.

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.

Sweet Basil Plant and the Herb's Origins
Growing Basil
History of Basil
Health benefits of Basil
Different Species of Basil

Cooking and Growing Common Thyme

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