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Basil is one of the most popular herbs used in cooking today. Famous for its delicious aroma and warm peppery flavour, it is typically enjoyed with Italian and Mediterranean cooking: it is the natural companion to tomatoes and essential in Italian cooking. Deliciously versatile, basil can be used to flavour a variety of foods including soups, salads, sauces, main meals and desserts. In herbalism, basil is known for its relaxant and digestive properties.
Basil has a strong history of reverence and loathing. Its name is Greek for "King" and it is revered as a sacred herb in the Hindu religion. However, in Europe during the Middle Ages it was believed that scorpions would breed under pots of Basil and just to smell Basil would form a scorpion in the brain. Basil is known as the tomato herb because of their affinity. There are over 150 varieties of Basil.
Basil should have a good fresh green colour preserved by careful drying at temperatures of less than 110°F. The dried herb should retain its aniseed flavour. Methyl Chavicol is the principal flavour - giving volatile oil.
Basil is a fantastic store cupboard essential. It is great for vegetables including aubergines, carrots, spinach, courgettes and is delightful with salads and pasta.