Basil is native to India, Iran, and Africa, however it is now cultivated throughout the world. Some of the best basil is considered to come from California, as their advanced dehydration process allows for better flavor. Of the three different varieties, sweet basil, bush basil and Thai basil, sweet basil is the most sought after for its superior flavor.
There are two theories as to how basil got its name. The first being that it was derived from ‘basilikon phyton’, which is Greek for ‘kingly herb’. Supposedly the herb’s fragrance was so pleasing it was fit for a king’s house. The other theory is that it was named after the mythical serpent the ‘basilisk’, which can kill with one look.
Basil had the reputation for being a “love herb” in ancient times. The Romans considered the herb an aphrodisiac and often fed it to their horses during mating season. In Romania, if a young man accepted a sprig of basil from a young lady, the couple was considered to be engaged. Additionally, if an Italian woman left a pot of basil on her window seal, it was an indication that her lover was welcome. The Greeks and French took a different view however, as to them basil was a symbol of hatred and its fragrance was said to induce evil thoughts.
This exceptional herb is most often featured in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, possibly because it grows well in warmer climates and is more readily available. It has also gained popularity in the United States and other parts of North America, where it is often grown in many household herb gardens.
As stated before, basil is commonly used in Italian and Mediterranean dishes and is often added to herb blends like Italian Seasoning and Herbs de Provence. It is excellent on chicken and fish; in fact, it is a main ingredient in our Fisherman’s Blend. Also try sprinkling on pizza, pasta and eggs, or add to sauces, soups and stews (especially anything with a tomato base as basil compliments the mild fruit exceedingly well). Dry basil can also be used as a substitute when the fresh herb is not available (use 1/2 to 1/3 as much dry when substituting for fresh).