CategoryHerbs and spices

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Basil is an herb, the green leaves of which are used extensively in a variety of cuisines.

Characteristics edit

Basil leaves are bright green or purple, with a rounded teardrop shape. Some varieties may have a domed leaf surface. In terms of flavor, many basil varieties are reminiscent of mint, anise/clove, and pepper, with some having highly specific flavor profiles akin to lemon or chocolate.[1][2][3]

Varieties edit

There are multiple varieties of basil with different color and flavor profiles:[3]

  • Sweet/Italian basil: variety of basil used in Western and Mediterranean cuisines; broad domed leaves.
  • Thai basil:[4] narrower leaves with purple stems; tastes more like mint or anise than sweet basil does;[3] used in Thai cuisine.
  • Holy basil (krapow):[5] distinctive, hot flavor unlike sweet and Thai basil; used in Thai cooking.
  • Lemon basil: lemony flavor; used in Indonesian cooking, eaten raw as an accompaniment to fried fish or duck.
  • Opal basil:[1] purple leaves, strong flavor.

Seasonality edit

Seasonality tables | Autumn | Winter | Spring | Summer | All year
Basil Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Northern hemisphere                        
Southern hemisphere                        

Summer is basil season. In September (northern hemisphere) the plant will flower, indicating the end of its season. Basil will not survive frost and thrives on sunlight, but many people manage to grow or keep basil inside during the winter months.

Selection and storage edit

Basil is best used fresh and can usually be bought either as a potted plant or harvested leaves. The leaves on the potted plant will remain fresh provided the plant itself is well cared for. Harvested leaves wilt when chilled, and they typically keep only for 1 or 2 days—they are best used on the day of purchase or frozen in oil. The leaves can then be used from frozen in recipes where appearance is not important.[3] Overall, be delicate when handling fresh basil to prevent bruising.[6]

Basil can also be bought dried and stored in a jar, which is best kept in a cool dark place. However, fresh basil is far preferable since it loses many of its distinctive flavor characteristics when dried.[1][3]

Use edit

Basil is widely used in Mediterranean and Southeast Asian cuisines, where it can be incorporated into condiments, salads, curries, and beverages.[2] Sweet basil takes center stage in basic pesto,[3] and it is often paired with tomato.[1] Because of their pleasing appearance, the leaves are often used as a garnish. Basil seeds may be used in beverages or desserts,[5] where they take on properties similar to those of chia seeds.

Processing edit

Chopping basil is an inefficient way to release the flavors from its cellular structure. To maximize flavor from chopped basil, first place it in a ziplock bag, and then pound it with the flat of cleaver or a meat tenderizer. Pound until the leaves appear wet, and then proceed to chopping.

The flavor compounds in basil will dissipate with prolonged cooking,[3] so add it nearer to the end of cooking, and only cook it as much as is necessary to flavor the dish.

Gallery edit

Recipes edit

References edit

  1. a b c d Labensky, Sarah R.; Hause, Alan M.; Martel, Priscilla (2018-01-18). On Cooking: A Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals. Pearson. ISBN 978-0-13-444190-0.
  2. a b The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) (2011-09-13). The Professional Chef. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-470-42135-2.
  3. a b c d e f g "Basil: A Popular Fragrant Herb". The Spruce Eats. Retrieved 2023-12-20.
  4. "Why You Should Be Cooking With Thai Basil". Serious Eats. Retrieved 2023-12-20.
  5. a b Davidson, Alan (2014-01-01). Jaine, Tom (ed.). The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acref/9780199677337.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-19-967733-7.
  6. Editors, Contributors, and Readers of Fine Cooking (2010). How to Squeeze a Lemon: 1,023 Kitchen Tips, Food Fixes, and Handy Techniques. Taunton Press. ISBN 978-1-60085-326-5. {{cite book}}: |last= has generic name (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)