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Articles - Gourmet Pleasures:

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Ideal for windowsills, balconies and patios

With the coming of spring, fresh herbs are back on the menu. Basil is one of the most delicious and aromatic herbs that you can grow yourself on your windowsill or patio. If you know how to harvest basil correctly, your plant will go on and on. You can snip off the biggest leaves and then you can snip off any stalk above the second leaf. This will encourage it to form new shoots. Use sharp scissors or a small knife.

 

Origins and appearance

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) probably originated in India or possibly Egypt; it's been cultivated in Europe for centuries, especially in Mediterranean countries. The name comes from Greek and means "royal/kingly". Basil is an annual belonging to the Lamiaceae family and grows up to 60 centimetres high. There are over 60 species which differ in colour, the shale and size of the leaves and in the aroma.

Growing Basil

In northern Europe the type of basil most often grown is sweet basil sometimes called Genovese basil. But for Thai dishes you should be using Thai basil or lemon basil. Basil is available to buy fresh year round grown in pots, or in bunches. You can also buy basil dried or frozen. If you want to grow your own, choose a sunny position well-protected from cold winds. It needs fertile, well-drained soil and a lot of water.

Cooking with basil

Basil has a strong, spicy smell and taste. It is the perfect match for tomatoes, olive oil and lemons. Add it to soups, sauces and salads, but only at the last minute, because heat destroys the fine aroma. Everyone knows "Pesto alla Genovese" made with handfuls of fresh basil, pine kernels, parmesan, olive oil and garlic. To preserve basil, you can freeze it in ice-cubes or flavour vinegar or olive oil with the leaves.

 

The essential oils and tannins in basil will counteract bloating and lack of appetite.

 

Source: Heike Kreutz, www.aid.de