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Synonyms: sweet basil (plant), basil leaf
botanical name: Ocimum basilicum



Es gibt etwa 60 verschiedene Basilikum-Arten, von denen ocimum basilicum als Stammpflanze bezeichnet werden kann. Sie wird auch als "Gewöhnliches Basilikum" benannt und ist bei uns die gebräuchlichste Art.

There are about 60 different varieties of basil, and Ocimum basilicum is considered to be the stock plant. It is also called "common basil" and is the most common species in Germany.


The home of the basil plant is presumably topical India, where it was grown as early as 3000 years ago. Basil has been indigenous to Central Europe since the 12th century.


The main areas of cultivation are the Netherlands, several Mediterranean countries, India, Morocco and the USA. Smaller amounts are also grown in Germany.



Basil can be harvested from June until into autumn; the dried leaves as well as deep-frozen goods are available all year. Fresh basil is also sold as a potted plant in many supermarkets.


Appearance, taste, characteristics

Basil is an annual plant and like mint, for example, belongs to the family Lamiaceae. Depending on the variety, the plant grows to 25-50 cm, and in June or July it develops small white blossoms in the leaf axils. Also depending on the variety, the leaves are ovate or elongated; pilose; blunt or pointed, dentate or smooth-edged, wavy or smooth. There are also several dark-red or curly-leaved species.


The cultivated types can be roughly divided into two different groups:

* Robustly growing plants with curved leaves; the aroma is not so delicate and the leaves are somewhat coarser.
* Low-growing bushes with very fine, very aromatic leaves. These are more popular for seasoning than the large-leaved varieties.


Fresh basil smells aromatic, sweetish, and pleasantly pungent and faintly resembles cloves. The taste is correspondingly tangy, sweetly pungent and appetizing.


When dried, basil loses some of its fine, pungent aroma and smells vaguely like mint. Certain species have an aroma resembling clove, anise, cinnamon or lemon.



The content of essential oil in the fresh leaves is 0.5%. Depending on the variety, the main components of the oil are linalool, estragole, citral, eugenol or methyl cinnamate. In addition, basil contains tannins, above all rosmarinic acid, flavonoids and terpenes.


Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions

The aroma is most intensive when the herb is harvested directly prior to or during florescence. Like all fresh herbs, fresh basil should be used as quickly as possible. To keep it fresh longer, you can wrap it in a moist paper towel or foil and store it in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator for several days. It also helps to spray the leaves with water now and then.


Basil can be deep-frozen. If the minced leaves are put into ice-cube trays with some water or olive oil, the deep-frozen portions are easier to remove.


The dried herb should be protected from light and kept cool and dry, like other dried seasonings.


Presumed effect on health

Basil is said to be an appetite stimulant, generally restorative, calming and antispasmodic. It is supposed to alleviate intestinal discomfort, particularly flatulence, abdominal fullness and indigestion.


It is also supposed to relieve gallbladder trouble and urinary tract disorders. In folk medicine basil is used as well for colds, headaches and inflammation of the genito-urinary tract.


Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

Basil is sold fresh, deep-frozen, dried and usually crushed or ground. It is used particularly in Italian, Greek and French cuisine and is indispensable for many dishes. The fresh leaves are excellent in salads, soups, and sauces, with fish and seafood and also with fatty meat dishes.

Basil tastes good with vegetables, especially tomatoes, aubergines (eggplants), zucchini and sweet peppers. Potatoes, spinach and mushrooms can be topped off with basil. Many Italian dishes such as pizza and pasta are enhanced with basil. Consider pesto, for instance, an Italian speciality sauce made chiefly of fresh basil, garlic, olive oil and pine nuts. Basil is also an important companion to tomatoes and mozzarella (caprese).


Basil is used as well to make herbal vinegar, liqueur and brandy. If you put a few basil leaves into a bottle of vinegar, the vinegar will become more aromatic.


Basil is also a component of sausage mixtures. The essential oil of basil is extracted industrially from the leaves and is used especially to make pickles and tinned fish but also in pharmacy and as a skin-care product in cosmetics.


Seasoning tip

Basil combines well with rosemary and savory. It also harmonizes with tarragon, garlic, oregano, coriander, mint, parsley, chives, sage and capers. A well-known, very popular blend called Provençal herbs (herbes de Provençe) contains basil, rosemary, thyme, marjoram and usually lavender flowers.


Basil quickly loses its aroma during cooking and becomes bitter. Therefore, it should be added only at the end of cooking or to the finished dish.



By the way, sneezing powder and snuff tobacco are also made from basil leaves.





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