Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
Fresh basil has an initial subtle peppery flavour, which evolves into a slightly sweet, aromatic.
When cooking with basil it should be added at the end of cooking. Heat removes the flavour and if cooked for too long can result in bitterness.
Basil has a strong, pungent, sweet and somewhat menthol aroma.
Basil pairs exquisitely with lemon, tomato and garlic. Sweet basil is an essential ingredient in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine and loves being added to pasta, pizza, creamy sauces, dressings, soups, salads and olive oil. Pair basil with chicken, beef, tomatoes, eggs, chives, dill, oregano, rosemary, thyme, pepper and sea salt.
Thai basil is often referred to as licorice basil for the strong anise flavour it offers.
Thai basil is more robust than sweet basil so can be cooked for longer periods of time without losing flavour. This makes Thai basil perfect for soups, stir-fries and curries.
Slightly cinnamon scented, similarly smelling to cloves. Thai basil's scent is not as pungent as sweet basil.
The oil from Thai basil compliments the taste of pork well. It is very popular in many Asian dishes and adds the essential flavour to Thai curries and stir-fries that is hard to replicate with any other herb.
The flavour of the basil is directly affected by its growing conditions. You can propagate basil by seeds and by cuttings (best taken during spring and winter). To encourage bushiness of the plant flowers should continually removed.
Minimum temperature for growing has to be above 13 degrees celsius for germination. Basil likes warm temperatures with sun exposure and as such is a good kitchen window sill pot plant. In a warmer climates basil may grow in winter and can become a biennial plant.
Ensure that the location of your basil plant yields 6 to 8 hours of sun per day. When the plant has its first 6 or so leaves prune above the second set to encourage growth. When using leaves it is best to remove the leaves as you need them.
In gardens basil is a good companion to other plants and repels white fly and aphids. It has a particular affinity to tomatoes in pots and also on plate.
Basil is originally native to Iran, India and other tropical regions of Asia, having been cultivated there for more than 5,000 years.
Folklore was that if you wanted to grow fragrant, strong basil than you should shout and swear when sowing your seeds. It was also said that if a man gave a sprig of basil to a woman she was sure to fall for him. In Haiti, shopkeepers will sprinkle basil around their shops to ward off evil. Europeans claimed that the basil would wilt if anyone with an impure heart touched it.
Facts About Basil
When basil leaves are brushed against or rubbed they let off a strong-clove or anise-like aroma. Fresh basil should not be refrigerated; it can cause the leaves to develop brown spots.
What to do if Thai or Sweet basil is not available?
While both Thai and sweet basil do have their own flavour they can be interchanged with each other. While the flavour of a dish will change slightly the two are complementary and so will not imbalance a dish.
Can I still use my basil once it turns brown?
You can still use slightly browned basil as long as it still holds its fragrance and isn’t slimy or mildewy. You’ll find putting fresh basil in the fridge will cause it to brown.
What should I do when my basil plant starts to flower?
When flowers start appearing on your plant pluck them off as soon as you see them. This will promote further growth.
How long should my basil plant last?
Basil is generally an annual plant meaning that a new one should be planted every season. In warmer more tropical climates it can become a biennual plant so will last through winter and into the next year.
How to keep basil fresh?
It is best to keep basil in a glass of water in a cool, dry and dark spot, though not in the refrigerator.