Basil

Basil is an annual herbaceous plant, originating from Iran to India. Today its many varieties are cultivated almost universally, each with its own characteristics and uses. The name basil (from the Greek «βασιλεύς», the word for “king”), according to the myth, was given to it because it sprouted on the spot where Constantine I (emperor of the Byzantine Empire) and his mother, Saint Helena, discovered the True Cross. Even today, it is still used during the ceremony for the Feast of the Holy Cross. Another version about the derivation of the name, states that it was given when Alexander the Great came back from his military campaign in India, bringing basil with him - that was the plant of the king.

Romans though it had a positive effect on sexual potency. It was used to express love, but also as a talisman. Ancient Egyptians used it in combination with other materials during mummification and Gauls on purification rituals together with spring water. It is believed that the Orthodox Christian rituals of Blessing in which basil is used, have their origins on these practices.

There are some old traditional proverbs that say “where basil grows, no evil goes!” and “where basil is, no evil can live”. Basil is often given as a present to new households, to bring luck. This is the reason why after May, when basil plants are readily available, everybody plants one!

 

 

Medicinal Properties::


 

Basil acts as an antiseptic and anticongestant and increases perspiration. Its therapeutic properties are especially pronounced in its essential oil, which is a great anticonvulsant. Basil infusion enhances digestion and has diuretic properties, acts as a stimulant, has a positive effect on intestinal problems and migraines.  Powdered (and taken nasally), basil is effective against common colds and headaches. Mixed with some wine, it acts like a stimulant and enhances digestion. It also aims the production of milk on lactating women.
Basil extract is used for the treatment of stomatitis, cold sores, and nausea (including pregnancy induced nausea).
Consumption of basil leaves with some oil as a salad is a well-known remedy against constipation.
Basil is used extensively for drug and fragrance production.

 

 

In Cooking::


 

Basil is considered the royalty of all aromatic herbs, since it is widely used and easily combined with a wide range of materials. There are many varieties of basil, but the one most widely used for culinary purposes is the broad leaved Italian basil (known as sweet basil), which is also used in the famous pesto sauce. Its taste and fragrance are quite refined when compared to other varieties – which are used more for decorative purposes.
When cooking, the leaves should be added (and to a lesser extend the stalks), during the last stages of food preparation, since prolonged heat destroys the basil’s volatile compounds and results in loss of flavor.
Basil is great on combination with fresh tomatoes and soft cheeses.  It is great with salads, soups, risottos, eggs, sea food, both white and red meats, meatballs, fruit, bread, almost every kind of pasta sauce, as well as with staffed tomatoes.

It is widely used in spirit and beverage making.
A great place to put a pot of basil is by the kitchen windowsill, as long as it is well lit. But a word of caution! When temperatures fall under 15C, basil plants should be transferred inside the house, in a bright position.
TIP: basil is one of best insect repelling plants! A pot of basil will keep at bay flies, mosquitoes and all sorts of annoying bugs and, above all, in a natural way.
You can even use it to protect clothing from moths: just prepare a mixture of dried basil, sage, lavender and rosemary in fabric bags, and put them in the closet!

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