Basil, scientific name Ocimum Basilicum, is a herb originating from Central Africa and South Asia that belongs to the Lamiacacea family. It is also known by the names ‘St. Joseph's wort’ and ‘great basil’.
Basil made its appearance around 4,000 years ago. It then spread to Rome and the whole of southern Europe in the 2nd century. It was used in England and the Americas as far back as the 14th century. Nowadays, basil is an emblem of Mediterranean cuisine and is used all over the world.
The distinguishing features of basil are its pale to dark green leaves; raised, branched, dense stems; small white flowers; and seeds. The part most commonly used in the leaf, which is harvested before it blooms, then dried or used fresh.
Basil grows in well-drained, sandy, humus-rich, light soils, exposed to sunlight and sheltered from the wind and cold. The plant measures from 20 to 40cm in height. It flowers in either June or July. Basil is usually harvested around three months after seeding (from July to October).
Basil is widely used in many dishes in Mediterranean cuisine (especially in Provençal dishes). It can be used either fresh or dried and can be found in the dried goods section all year round.
It enhances the flavour of tomato salads, vinaigrettes, pistou pasta, ratatouille, soups and lamb-based dishes.
Freeze-dried basil is used in the same way as fresh basil. It rehydrates very quickly on contact with food. Basil goes very well with garlic and oregano.