Like many other popular herbs, basil is a member of the mint family. This herb originated in Persia and India where it has now been cultivated for more than 5,000 years. Today, Egypt and the United States are the primary countries in which basil is grown and exported.
Surrounded by rich folklore, renowned for uses both culinary and medicinal and named for the Greek word meaning ‘king’, basil is indeed considered by many to be the ‘King of Herbs’.
Basil flavor profile
This fragrant herb is mild and slightly sweet. It has a very light herbal bouquet that allows it to complement a wide variety of foods including cheese, meat, vegetables and egg dishes.
It is especially appealing when paired with tomato, making it an ideal choice for adding flavor to everything from salads to Italian marinara-based dishes.
Health benefits of basil
Thousands of years ago, the ancients recognized basil’s benefits to human health and used it in both the treatment of illnesses and as a way to maintain good health.
Basil is extremely rich in many vitamins, nutrients and minerals that are necessary for the human body to function at its best. This herb contains particularly high concentrations of the following:
- Vitamin k
- Vitamin a
- Vitamin c
- Omega-3 fatty acids
While the various chemical compounds found in basil provide a wealth of health benefits and medicinal uses, the most popular and widely known include the following:
- Helps to clear skin blemishes
- Promotes overall good health
- Alleviates stress & balances mood
- Helps to detoxify the liver
- Has powerful anti-inflammatory & anti-bacterial properties
- Helps to slow the aging process
- Protects against age-related macular degeneration (AMD) & other diseases of the eye
- Promotes production of essential clotting factors in the blood
- Useful in developing & maintaining bone strength
- Helps the body maintain optimal heart rate & blood pressure
- Relieves nausea & indigestion
- Relieves pain & discomfort associated with inflammatory bowel conditions, rheumatoid arthritis & osteoarthritis
Common uses of basil
Basil is most widely used in Italian cuisine and Mediterranean pasta dishes. This herb is particularly well-known for its role as the main ingredient in pesto, a popular sauce that is made using a flavorful mixture of basil, parmesan cheese and pine nuts.
This fragrant herb is commonly used in Thai cooking and in some Asian countries, basil seeds are used to make a popular flavored drink.
In the United States and all over the world, basil is widely used as a seasoning herb for a variety of foods including soups, stews, fish, poultry and meat. Its vibrantly-colored leaves ad light flavor make it a popular addition to vegetable salads such as Italian panzanella as well as sweet, fruit salads.
With its many uses, this King of Herbs is an absolute staple in any kitchen. Whether you choose to use fresh basil or keep dried ground basil on your spice rack, you’re sure to find that this is one herb you reach for again and again as you cook.
Dishes both simple and complex can be elevated with the addition of this popular herb. Basil may be relatively subtle in flavor, but its ability to season nearly any type of food will have you coming back to it again and again.