Basil, Delicate and Aromatic Herb
Basil derives its name from the Greek word
basilikos, which means royal, because it was regarded as such a
special herb that only the king was allowed to cut it in the olden days.
This delicate and aromatic herb is widely
used in Italian and Thai cooking. The herb has a sweet, slightly pungent
perfume, which you will notice just by brushing the leaves.
is elusive but distinct, adding its own particular stamp to a wide range
of dishes. Basil has a great affinity with tomatoes and other
Mediterranean vegetables such as eggplants (aubergine) and fennel and is
the herb you are most likely to associate with Italian and Provencal
cooking. Besides the familiar sweet basil, there are numerous other
varieties, many now available in the stores.
Purple basil has beautiful dark wine-red
leaves, while handkerchief basil has particularly large leaves and
Neapolitan basil has crinkly leaves. All varieties have a similar aroma
When using basil, add it to dishes at the
last minute or use raw, as cooking will destroy the flavor. The leaves
bruise easily, so are best used whole or torn, rather than cut with a
Also known as Asian basil, sweet Thai basil
has a more aniseed flavor than the basil that comes from around the
Mediterranean, with a more pungent aroma. There are a number of
varieties, and horapa (sweet basil) comes closest to the basil
with which we are familiar, with glossy pointed leaves. Krapow,
commonly known as holy basil, is another sweet basil but with narrower
leaves that tend to be dull rather than shiny. The leaves have serrated
red or purple edges. Holy basil is the more pungent of the two, with a
lemon scent and a peppery flavor.