As you probably already know there are plenty of varieties of basil. Being used on a large scale in all international cuisines, basil has lots of flavors: sweet, spicy, lemon, anise, licorice, etc. So, if you want to give your foods an exquisite taste, be sure that you have more than one species of basil in your kitchen.
A Little History
Basil is native to Asia and tropical India. It has been cultivated there for more than 5000 years.
An old record from 907 AD states the existence of Sweet Basil in Hunan region of China. It migrated to the West as a whole plant, because it can easily be grown indoors, away from exposure to frost.
Today we are not using basil only for seasoning, but also in perfumes, incense, and natural remedies.
- There are 35 species of basil belonging to the mint family. They range from annual plants to perennials and shrubs. Holy basil is the most famous – known for its medicinal and spiritual qualities.
- In ancient Greece and Rome, the doctors believed that those who were cultivating basil had to shout wild curses so the seeding was successful.
- Basil has always been a symbol of love in Italy. When a Roman boy accepted a sprig of basil from his girlfriend, it meant he was engaged.
- In ancient India, basil was loved as a symbol of hospitality.
- There are many superstitions from ancient times about basil. One said that if you put a leaf under a pot it turns into a scorpion in time, and smelling the plant might bring a scorpion into the brain.
- Basil was used to embalm age-old Egyptian mummies.
- It was named “poverty grass”, on the basis that it helped protect those in need.
- Among traditional aphrodisiacs, basil is common to many cultures.
- Sweet Basil is known as naturally enhancing sex and fertility drive by stimulating a feeling of total relaxation in the body and muscles while increasing blood circulation.
Flavor and Description
Sweet Basil (bai horapa) is also called Thai Basil, although it is equally popular in Vietnam (hung que), Laos and Cambodia. It has dark green leaves, smaller, and not as round as Mediterranean basil and purple flowers.
It is used in foods in large quantities (green and red curries and spicy stir-fry dishes).
Flower buds are also edible for adding to food and have a wonderful floral aroma.
Thai basil can be used by locals during the entire year.
It has a peppery-sweet flavor with pronounced notes of anise. Its taste is reminiscent of anise and licorice. The taste is stronger than in many other varieties of basil.
It has a strong anti-inflammatory effect due to the essential oils. Eugenol, Citronellol, linalool, citral, limonene, and terpineol are just some of the oils in basil. The enzyme inhibitor effect of eugenol may help rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease.
It promotes cardiovascular health. The high magnesium content helps muscles and blood vessels relax, improving blood flow. Exercise is only a part of cardiovascular health. Nutrition is also crucial and basil can help you.
Basil has antibacterial properties. The oils provide protection against unwanted bacterial growth similarly to oregano oil (from the same family). Basil intake inhibits strains of bacteria (Staphylococcus, Enterococcus, and Pseudomonas) that are widespread and have developed resistance to antibiotic treatments. Therefore, it is a good idea to include basil in your daily foods.
In ancient times, it was used as an antidote to snake bites and to give people strength during religious fasting.
Basil stimulates appetite and helps reduce flatulence. It is known that basil infusion can help with dysentery, nausea and stomach disorders due to gas.
Like all other herbs, basil supplies alkaline minerals, to counterbalance the typical acidic nutrition.
Sweet Thai Basil is commonly used in Thailand. The authentic local cuisine is a mix and balance of four tastes: sweet, hot, salty and sour. Therefore, this type of basil has gained a well-deserved place in the top of the spices used in the area.
Having a distinct flavor means you cannot simply add it to all kinds of food and expect them to taste well. It is delicious if you pair it with the right fit.
It goes well with:
- Meats, like beef or venison
- Fish and Seafood
- Vegetarian dishes
- Vegetables, like onion, shallots, tomatoes
- Coconut milk
- White wine
- Oils, like pumpkin seed oil
- Asian soups
- Other spices, like lemongrass, ginger, parsley, pepper, saffron, star anise, tarragon, vanilla
- Thai basil with beef and pumpkin seed oil
- Thai basil with coconut milk and ginger
Only add the basil after the cooking time is off if you don’t want to lose the aroma.
Plant your Thai basil at home, in a pot so you will have your fresh leaves all the time near your cooking table. This way you will be able to prepare the most delicious dishes.