Basil – Ocimum basilicum

Basil – Ocimum basilicum

There are 35 species of Basil, most coming from the warm and tropical regions of the world. A native to India and the Middle East. Basil has been cultivated in the Mediterranean region for thousands of years.

All Basils can be grown from seed, either directly into a pot, or in a plug tray . Don’t use a seed tray as Basils have a long tap root and dislike being moved. Basils can be grown in the garden in areas that are frost free. The soil needs to be rich and well drained, Basil does not like getting its roots too wet, so water early in the day

Basil is best known for its use in Italian cuisine, but it also plays an important role in many Asian cuisines. There are many varieties of Basil, the variety used in Italian food is Ocimum - basilicum also known as Sweet Basil, rather than O. Var.thyrsiflora – Thai Basil, or O. x citriodorum – Lemon Basil and O. tenuiflorum - Holy Basil which are used in Asian cooking.

Some Basils have a rich history in religion and folklore. Basil was believed to have been planted around Christ’s Tomb and is used today in Greek Orthodox churches in the preparation of holy water. In Hindu households, holding Basil is thought to provide protection against thunder.

Although Basil is perhaps best known as a culinary herb, that goes particularly well with tomatoes, it also has a number of medicinal and household uses. Basil is a warming aromatic herb, that reduces fevers, improves digestion and is effective against bacterial infections. A few drops of basil oil in an oil burner will help focus and sharpen the mind, useful when studying for exams. Around the house basil is useful as an insect repellent, either as a plant, as an oil in a burner or a leaf rubbed on the skin to keep mosquitoes away.

Basil is generally used fresh, as the dried version tends to lose a lot of flavour. The flavour of Basil can also be destroyed by cooking, so is generally added to dishes at the last minute.

Basil can also be used in desserts, the following recipe is particularly good with citrus desserts.

BASIL SORBET

Ingredients Method

500g – caster sugar  Place sugar, water and basil into saucepan and bring to the

500ml – water boil, ensure sugar is dissolved

175ml – chopped basil Remove from heat and allow to cool

Stalks & leaves Place in blender until smooth, then put through a sieve

12 Tbsp Lemon juice until smooth, twice to achieve an even smooth consistency

Once cold, put into an ice-cream machine and follow

Manufacturer’s instructions or put into a container and place in the freezer

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