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Basil is a plant of the Family Lamiaceae. It is also known as Sweet Basil or Tulsi. It is a tender low-growing herb that is grown as a perennial in warm, tropical climates. Basil is originally native to India and other tropical regions of Asia. It has been cultivated there for more than 5,000 years. It is prominently featured in many cuisines throughout the world including Italian, Thai, Vietnamese and Laotian cuisines. It grows to between 30–60 cm tall. It has light green, silky leaves 3–5 cm long and 1–3 cm broad. The leaves are opposite each other. The flowers are quite big. They are white in color and arranged as a spike.

The plant tastes somewhat like anise, with a strong, pungent, sweet smell.

The word basil comes from the Greek βασιλεύς (basileus), meaning "royal". This is because it is believed to have grown above the spot where St. Constantine and Helen discovered the Holy Cross. The Oxford English Dictionary quotes speculations that basil may have been used in "some royal unguent, bath, or medicine". Basil is still considered the "king of herbs" by many cookery authors. An alternative etymology has "basil" coming from the Latin word basilicus, meaning dragon and being the root for basilisk, but this likely was a linguistic reworking of the word as brought from Greece.

Mediterranean and Indochinese cuisines frequently use basil. In Mediterranean cuisines it is often combined with tomato. Basil is one of the main ingredients in pesto—a green Italian oil-and-herb sauce from the city of Genoa. The other two main ingredients of Pesto are olive oil and pine nuts. The most commonly used Mediterranean basil cultivars are "Genovese", "Purple Ruffles", "Mammoth", "Cinnamon", "Lemon", "Globe", and "African Blue". Chinese also use fresh or dried basils in soups and other foods. In Taiwan, people add fresh basil leaves into thick soups (羹湯; gēngtāng). They also eat fried chicken with deep-fried basil leaves.

  • 1 oz
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