Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Basil (Ocimum basilicum), of the family Lamiaceae (mints), is a tender low-growing herb. Basil is a culinary herb prominently featured in Italian cuisine, and also plays a major role in the Southeast Asian cuisines of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. The plant tastes somewhat like anise, with a strong, pungent, sweet smell.

There are many varieties of basil. That which is used in Italian food is typically called sweet basil, as opposed to Thai basil, lemon basil and holy basil, which are used in Asia. While most common varieties of basil are treated as annuals, some are perennial in warm, tropical climates, including African Blue and Holy Thai basil.

Basil is originally native to Iran, India and other tropical regions of Asia, having been cultivated there for more than 5,000 years.

The word basil comes from the Greek basileus, meaning "king", as it is believed to have grown above the spot where St. Constantine and Helen discovered the Holy Cross. The Oxford English Dictionary quotes speculations that basil may have been used in "some royal unguent, bath, or medicine". Basil is still considered the "king of herbs" by many cookery authors.

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