Basil (Ocimum basilicum), of the Family Lamiaceae, is also known as Sweet Basil or Tulsi. It is a tender low-growing herb that is grown as a perennial in warm, tropical climates. Basil is originally native to India and other tropical regions of Asia, having been cultivated there for more than 5,000 years.
Basil is most commonly recommended to be used fresh; in cooked recipes it is generally added at the last moment, as cooking quickly destroys the flavour. The fresh herb can be kept for a short time in plastic bags in the refrigerator, or for a longer period in the freezer, after being blanched quickly in boiling water. The dried herb also loses most of its flavour, and what little flavour remains tastes very different, with a weak coumarin flavour, like hay.
Mediterranean and Indochinese cuisines frequently use basil, the former frequently combining it with tomato. Basil is one of the main ingredients in pestoÂ—a green Italian oil-and-herb sauce from the city of Genoa, its other two main ingredients being olive oil and pine nuts. The most commonly used Mediterranean basil cultivars are "Genovese", "Purple Ruffles", "Mammoth", "Cinnamon", "Lemon", "Globe", and \"African Blue". Chinese also use fresh or dried basils in soups and other foods. In Taiwan, people add fresh basil leaves into thick soups. They also eat fried chicken with deep-fried basil leaves.
Basil is sometimes used with fresh fruit and in fruit jams and saucesÂ—in particular with strawberries, but also raspberries or dark-colored plums. Arguably the flat-leaf basil used in Vietnamese cooking, which has a slightly different flavour, is more suitable for use with fruit.
When soaked in water the seeds of several basil varieties become gelatinous, and are used in Asian drinks and desserts such as falooda or sherbet. They are used for their medicinal properties in Ayurveda, the traditional medicinal system of India.
» Find recipes containing basil
The encyclopedia texts are available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.