Known as the "royal herb" with over forty varieties, including Queen of Sheba and Magical Michael, basil has been cultivated for over 5,000 years with origins in India.
With varietal names often indicating their aroma and appearance, the multitude of flavors range from warm and licorice-like to sweet and peppery. Holy basil has hints of mint and camphor and is essential to Thai cooking. Cinnamon basil is native to Mexico with pink flowers and leaves flushed with purple. Lettuce basil is prized in southern Italy and marries well with olive oil and chopped tomatoes. But by far the most popular variety is sweet basil. The complex and spicy notes of clove and anise of sweet basil punctuate Western cuisines with dishes of pesto and pistou.
Basil leaves are delicate and can bruise easily. Choose bright, vibrant bunches. Blackened leaves appear when the plant is wet or damaged. Basil is best stored with the roots intact and sitting in a jar of water. When stored in the refrigerator, basil should keep for a week. Basil quickly loses its aroma when cooked so for hot dishes, stir a bit more of the herb after cooking is complete to accentuate its herbaceousness.
Because it's high in essential oils, basil acts as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and is used to treat arthritis.
Be dazzeld by the bountiful varieties of basil on our July menu.