If basil makes you think of unwelcoming boarding house proprietors, think again. Basil, the herb, has many connotations as do many of our culinary herbs, but they are all positive.
Where does the herb basil come from?
In Italy it is considered a symbol of love, in India, where it originated, it is considered a sacred herb, and in France it has been used in pots as a centerpiece on outside cafe tables to keep away the flies.
This insect repellent nature of basil is just one of its properties that have come under scientific review. According to some studies basil also shows promise as an antibacterial, antiseptic and antifungal agent, which is not bad for something so tasty.
What are the health benefits of basil?
Sweet basil’s Latin name Ocimum Basilicum has been variously said to have kingly connections because rulers lived in basilicas, or to have allusions to a mythical venomous creature called the basilisk. It does have a royal flavor and it was once used in a potion against insect stings, so take your pick.
All over the world, basil has been used medicinally, with the leaves reputed to alleviate headaches, stimulate milk in nursing mothers and aid digestion. Even grander claims have been made on its behalf for its value in the treatment of diseases of various organs.
What does basil taste like?
Basil is probably most famous for its culinary role. It is used in oriental cooking and it is an acclaimed companion for tomatoes, a favorite for pasta dishes and an essential ingredient in pesto, that nutty Mediterranean tomato paste.
One of basil’s most useful attributes is that its flavor compensates for a reduction or omission of sugar in any sauce recipe. Here’s a really amazing recipe for a tasty tomato sauce which would go well with a pasta meal. If you are not into pasta, try it simply poured over cooked cauliflower for a vegetable feast.
Tomato sauce with basil
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 – 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 500g tomatoes, skinned and chopped
- 1 tbs tomato paste
- 1 tbs chopped fresh basil or 1 tbs dried basil
- 1 cup red wine
- A pinch black pepper
- A little water
- Gently cook the onion and garlic in the oil.
- Add tomatoes, and then the rest of the ingredients.
- Simmer gently for 10 – 15 minutes, adding a little water if necessary.