Basil


Basil
Basil
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Lamiaceae
Genus: Ocimum
Species: O. basilicum
Binomial name
Ocimum basilicum
L.

Basil, or Sweet Basil, is a common name for the culinary herb Ocimum basilicum (pronounced /ˈbæzɪl/ or, in the US, /ˈbeːzɪl/), of the family Lamiaceae (mints), sometimes known as Saint Joseph's Wort in some English-speaking countries.

Basil, originally from India, is best known as a culinary herb prominently featured in Italian cuisine, and also plays a major role in the Northeast Asian cuisine of Taiwan and the Southeast Asian cuisines of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Depending on the species and cultivar, the leaves may taste somewhat like anise, with a strong, pungent, often sweet smell.

There are many varieties of Ocimum basilicum, as well as several related species or species hybrids also called basil. The type used in Italian food is typically called sweet basil, as opposed to Thai basil (O. basilicum var. thyrsiflora), lemon basil (O. × citriodorum) and holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum), which are used in Asia. While most common varieties of basil are treated as annuals, some are perennial in warm, tropical climates, including holy basil and a cultivar known as 'African Blue'.

Basil is originally native to India and other tropical regions of Asia, having been cultivated there for more than 5,000 years.[1]

Contents

Etymology

The word basil comes from the Greek βασιλεύς (basileus), meaning "king", as it is believed to have grown above the spot where St. Constantine and Helen discovered the Holy Cross.[citation needed] 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.[who?]

Nomenclature and taxonomy

Most commercially available basils are cultivars of sweet basil. There are over 160 named cultivars available and more new ones every year. There are also a number of species sold. Here are some basils commonly sold in the USA. [1]

For a more complete list, see List of basil cultivars

Similar species

Culinary use

Dried basil leaves
Basil, fresh
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 94 kJ (22 kcal)
Carbohydrates 2.65 g
- Dietary fiber 1.6 g
Fat 0.64 g
Protein 3.15 g
Water 92.06 g
Vitamin A equiv. 264 μg (33%)
- beta-carotene 3142 μg (29%)
Thiamine (vit. B1) 0.034 mg (3%)
Riboflavin (vit. B2) 0.076 mg (6%)
Niacin (vit. B3) 0.902 mg (6%)
Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.209 mg (4%)
Vitamin B6 0.155 mg (12%)
Folate (vit. B9) 68 μg (17%)
Choline 11.4 mg (2%)
Vitamin C 18.0 mg (22%)
Vitamin E 0.80 mg (5%)
Vitamin K 414.8 μg (395%)
Calcium 177 mg (18%)
Iron 3.17 mg (24%)
Magnesium 64 mg (18%)
Manganese 1.148 mg (55%)
Phosphorus 56 mg (8%)
Potassium 295 mg (6%)
Sodium 4 mg (0%)
Zinc 0.81 mg (9%)
Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Basil is commonly used fresh in cooked recipes. In general, it is added at the last moment, as cooking quickly destroys the flavor. The fresh herb can be kept for a short time in plastic bags in the refrigerator, or for a longer period in the freezer, after being blanched quickly in boiling water. The dried herb also loses most of its flavor, and what little flavor remains tastes very different, with a weak coumarin flavor, like hay.

Basil is one of the main ingredients in pesto—a green Italian oil-and-herb sauce. Its other main ingredients are olive oil, garlic, and pine nuts.

The most commonly used Mediterranean basil cultivars are "Genovese", "Purple Ruffles", "Mammoth", "Cinnamon", "Lemon", "Globe", and "African Blue". The Chinese also use fresh or dried basils in soups and other foods. In Taiwan, people add fresh basil leaves to thick soups (Chinese: 羹湯; pinyin: gēngtāng). They also eat fried chicken with deep-fried basil leaves. Basil (most commonly Thai basil) is commonly steeped in cream or milk to create an interesting flavor in ice cream or chocolates (such as truffles). The leaves are not the only part of basil used in culinary applications, the flower buds have a more subtle flavor and they are edible.

Thai basil is also a condiment in the Vietnamese noodle soup, phở.

Basil seeds

When soaked in water, the seeds of several basil varieties become gelatinous, and are used in Asian drinks and desserts such as falooda or sherbet. They are used for their medicinal properties in Ayurveda, the traditional medicinal system of India and Siddha medicine, a traditional Tamil system of medicine. They are also used as drinks in Southeast Asia.

Other basils

See List of basil cultivars

Several other basils, including some other Ocimum species, are grown in many regions of Asia. Most of the Asian basils have a clove-like flavor that is, in general, stronger than the Mediterranean basils. The most notable is the holy basil or tulsi, a revered home-grown plant in India and Nepal. In China, the local cultivar is called (Chinese: 九層塔; pinyin: jiǔ céng tǎ; literally "nine-level pagoda"), while the imported varieties are called (Chinese: 羅勒; pinyin: luó lè) or (Chinese: 巴西里; pinyin: bā xī lǐ), although [巴西里] often refers to a different plant—parsley.

Lemon basil has a strong lemony smell and flavor very different from those of other varieties because it contains a chemical called citral. It is widely used in Indonesia, where it is called kemangi and served raw, together with raw cabbage, green beans, and cucumber, as an accompaniment to fried fish or duck. Its flowers, when broken up, are a zesty salad condiment.

Chemical components

The various basils have such different scents because the herb has a number of different essential oils that come together in different proportions for various breeds. The strong clove scent of sweet basil is derived from eugenol, the same chemical as actual cloves.[citation needed] The citrus scent of lemon basil and lime basil reflects their higher portion of citral, which causes this effect in several plants including lemon mint, and of limonene, which gives actual lemon peel its scent. African blue basil has a strong camphor smell because it contains camphor and camphene in higher proportions. Licorice basil contains anethole, the same chemical that makes anise smell like licorice, and in fact is sometimes called "anise basil."

Other chemicals that help to produce the distinctive scents of many basils, depending on their proportion in each specific breed, include[citation needed]:

Based on chemical content, basils can be divided into four groups: 1) French; 2) exotic; 3) methyl cinnamate; and 4) eugenol basil. These groupings are not used by gardeners. 1) French basil; Ocimum basilicum, contains lower amounts of phenols 2) contains methyl chavicol (40-80%) 3) contains methyl cinnamate - ether 90% 4) contains eugenol

Basil and oregano contain large amounts of (E)-beta-caryophyllene (BCP), which might have a use in treating inflammatory bowel diseases and arthritis. BCP is the only product identified in nature that activates CB2 selectively; it interacts with one of two cannabinoid receptors (CB2), blocking chemical signals that lead to inflammation, without triggering cannabis's mood-altering effects.[5]

Aroma profiles

Cultivation

Timelapse of growing basil
Basil growing in the sun
Basil sprout at an early stage

Most culinary and ornamental basils are cultivars of the species Ocimum basilicum, but other species are also grown and there are many hybrids between species. Traditionally a green plant, some varieties, such as 'Purple Delight' have leaves that appear purple. [11]

Basil grows between 30–130 cm tall, with opposite, light green, silky leaves 3–11 cm long and 1–6 cm broad. The flowers are small, white in color and arranged in a terminal spike. Unusual among Lamiaceae, the four stamens and the pistil are not pushed under the upper lip of the corolla, but lie over the inferior lip. After entomophilous pollination, the corolla falls off and four round achenes develop inside the bilabiate calyx.

Basil is very sensitive to cold, with best growth in hot, dry conditions. It behaves as an annual if there is any chance of a frost. In Northern Europe, Canada, the northern states of the U.S., and the South Island of New Zealand it will grow best if sown under glass in a peat pot, then planted out in late spring/early summer (when there is little chance of a frost).[12] Additionally, it may be sown in soil once chance of frost is past. It fares best in a well-drained sunny spot.

Although basil grows best outdoors, it can be grown indoors in a pot and, like most herbs, will do best on an equator-facing windowsill. It should be kept away from extremely cold drafts, and grows best in strong sunlight, therefore a greenhouse or row cover is ideal if available. They can, however, be grown even in a basement, under fluorescent lights.

If its leaves have wilted from lack of water, it will recover if watered thoroughly and placed in a sunny location. Yellow leaves towards the bottom of the plant are an indication that the plant has been stressed; usually this means that it needs less water, or less or more fertilizer.

In sunnier climates such as Southern Europe, the southern states of the U.S., the North Island of New Zealand, and Australia, basil will thrive when planted outside. It also thrives over the summertime in the central and northern United States, but dies out when temperatures reach freezing point. It will grow back the next year if allowed to go to seed. It will need regular watering, but not as much attention as is needed in other climates.

Basil can also be propagated very reliably from cuttings in exactly the same manner as 'Busy Lizzie' (Impatiens), with the stems of short cuttings suspended for two weeks or so in water until roots develop.

Once a stem produces flowers, foliage production stops on that stem, the stem becomes woody, and essential oil production declines. To prevent this, a basil-grower may pinch off any flower stems before they are fully mature. Because only the blooming stem is so affected, some stems can be pinched for leaf production, while others are left to bloom for decoration or seeds.

Once the plant is allowed to flower, it may produce seed pods containing small black seeds, which can be saved and planted the following year. Picking the leaves off the plant helps "promote growth", largely because the plant responds by converting pairs of leaflets next to the topmost leaves into new stems.

Companion Planting

In double-blinded taste tests, basil has been found to not affect significantly the taste of tomatoes when planted adjacent to them.[13]

Diseases

Basil suffers from several plant pathogens that can ruin the crop and reduce yield. Fusarium wilt is a soil-borne fungal disease that will quickly kill younger basil plants. Seedlings may also be killed by Pythium damping off.

A common foliar disease of basil is gray mold caused by Botrytis cinerea; it can also cause infections post-harvest and is capable of killing the entire plant. Black spot can also be seen on basil foliage and is caused by the fungi genus Colletotrichum.

Potential health effects

Recently, there has been much research into the health benefits conferred by the essential oils found in basil. Scientific studies in vitro have established that compounds in basil oil have potent antioxidant, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties, and potential for use in treating cancer.[14][15][16][17] In addition, basil has been shown to decrease the occurrence of platelet aggregation and experimental thrombus in mice.[18] It is traditionally used for supplementary treatment of stress, asthma and diabetes in India.[19] In Siddha medicine, it is used for treating pimples on the face, but noted that intake of the seeds in large quantities is harmful for the brain.[citation needed]

Basil, like other aromatic plants such as fennel and tarragon, contains estragole, a known carcinogen and teratogen in rats and mice. While human effects are currently unstudied, extrapolation using body weight from the rodent experiments indicates that 100–1000 times the normal anticipated exposure still probably produces a minimal cancer risk.[20]

Cultural aspects

There are many rituals and beliefs associated with basil. The French sometimes call basil "l'herbe royale", while in Welsh it has the synonymous name "brenhinllys".[citation needed] Jewish folklore suggests it adds strength while fasting.[citation needed] In Portugal, dwarf bush basil is traditionally presented in a pot, together with a poem and a pom-pon, to a sweetheart, on the religious holidays of Saint John and Saint Anthony. However, basil represented hatred in ancient Greece, and European lore sometimes claims that basil is a symbol of Satan. African legend claims that basil protects against scorpions, while the English botanist Culpeper cites one "Hilarius, a French physician" as affirming it as common knowledge that smelling basil too much would breed scorpions in the brain.

Holy basil, also called tulsi, is highly revered in Hinduism and also has religious significance in the Greek Orthodox Church, where it is used to prepare holy water. It is said to have been found around Christ's tomb after his resurrection. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Serbian Orthodox Church, Macedonian Orthodox Church and Romanian Orthodox Church use basil (Bulgarian and Macedonian: босилек; Romanian: busuioc, Serbian: босиљак) to prepare holy water and pots of basil are often placed below church altars.

In Europe, basil is placed in the hands of the dead to ensure a safe journey. In India, they place it in the mouth of the dying to ensure they reach God. The ancient Egyptians and ancient Greeks believed it would open the gates of heaven for a person passing on.[citation needed]

In Boccaccio's Decameron a memorably morbid tale (novella V) tells of Lisabetta, whose brothers slay her lover. He appears to her in a dream and shows her where he is buried. She secretly disinters the head, and sets it in a pot of basil, which she waters with her daily tears. The pot being taken from her by her brothers, she dies of her grief not long after. Boccaccio's tale is the source of John Keats' poem Isabella or The Pot of Basil - which in turn inspired the paintings Isabella (Millais painting) and Isabella and the Pot of Basil. A similar story is told of the Longobard queen, Rosalind.

Toxicity studies

A study of the essential oil showed antifungal and insect-repelling properties.[21] A similar study reported in 2009 has confirmed that extracts from the plant are very toxic to mosquitos.[22] However, the plant is not toxic to rats.[2][clarification needed] Nevertheless, further scientific researches should be warranted, since there are no equivalent reports of its use against humans.

List of the cultivars and their nomenclature

Gallery

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Father Kino's Herbs: Growing & Using them Today, © 2011 Jacqueline A. Soule, Ph. D., Tierra del Sol Institute Press, Tucson, AZ.
  2. ^ a b Fandohan, P. et al.; Gnonlonfin, B; Laleye, A; Gbenou, JD; Darboux, R; Moudachirou, M (2008). "Toxicity and gastric tolerance of essential oils from Cymbopogon citratus, Ocimum gratissimum and Ocimum basilicum in Wistar rats". Food and Chemical Toxicology 46 (7): 2493–2497. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2008.04.006. PMID 18511170. 
  3. ^ Pessoa, L. M. et al.; Morais, SM; Bevilaqua, CM; Luciano, JH (2002). "Anthelmintic activity of essential oil of Ocimum gratissimum Linn. and eugenol against Haemonchus contortus". Veterinary Parasitology 109 (1 - 2): 59–63. doi:10.1016/S0304-4017(02)00253-4. PMID 12383625. 
  4. ^ J. Janick (ed.), James E. Simon, Mario R. Morales, Winthrop B. Phippen, Roberto Fontes Vieira, and Zhigang Hao, "Basil: A Source of Aroma Compounds and a Popular Culinary and Ornamental Herb", reprinted from: Perspectives on new crops and new uses (1999), ASHS Press, Alexandria, VA, ISBN 978-0-9615027-0-6.
  5. ^ Anti-inflammatory compound from cannabis found in herbs
  6. ^ a b c d e f Johnson, B. Christopher et al. (1999). "Substantial UV-B-mediated induction of essential oils in sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum L.)". Phytochemistry 51 (4): 507–510. doi:10.1016/S0031-9422(98)00767-5. 
  7. ^ a b Baritaux, O. et al.; Richard, H.; Touche, J.; Derbesy, M. (1992). "Effects of drying and storage of herbs and spices on the essential oil. Part I. Basil, Ocimum basilicum L.". Flavour and Fragrance Journal 7 (5): 267–271. doi:10.1002/ffj.2730070507. 
  8. ^ a b c d e Klimánková, Eva et al.; Holadová, Kateřina; Hajšlová, Jana; Čajka, Tomáš; Poustka, Jan; Koudela, Martin (2008). "Aroma profiles of five basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) cultivars grown under conventional and organic conditions". Food Chemistry 107 (1): 464–472. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2007.07.062. 
  9. ^ Brophy, J. J.; M. K. Jogia (1986). "Essential oils from Fijian Ocimum basilicum L.". Flavour and Fragrance Journal 1 (2): 53–55. doi:10.1002/ffj.2730010203. 
  10. ^ a b Miele, Mariangela et al.; Dondero, R; Ciarallo, G; Mazzei, M (2001). "Methyleugenol in Ocimum basilicum L. Cv. 'Genovese Gigante'". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 49 (1): 517–521. doi:10.1021/jf000865w. PMID 11170620. 
  11. ^ Purple Delight
  12. ^ "Basil". http://www.greenzonelife.com/herbs/basil.html. 
  13. ^ Bomford, Michael K. (2004) Yield, pest density, and tomato flavor effects of companion planting in garden-scale studies incorporating tomato, basil, and Brussels sprout. Thesis, West Virginia University, Plant and Soil Science, Unpublished
  14. ^ Bozin B, Mimica-Dukic N, Simin N, Anackov G (March 2006). "Characterization of the volatile composition of essential oils of some lamiaceae spices and the antimicrobial and antioxidant activities of the entire oils". J. Agric. Food Chem. 54 (5): 1822–8. doi:10.1021/jf051922u. PMID 16506839. 
  15. ^ Chiang LC, Ng LT, Cheng PW, Chiang W, Lin CC (October 2005). "Antiviral activities of extracts and selected pure constituents of Ocimum basilicum". Clin. Exp. Pharmacol. Physiol. 32 (10): 811–6. doi:10.1111/j.1440-1681.2005.04270.x. PMID 16173941. 
  16. ^ de Almeida I, Alviano DS, Vieira DP, et al. (July 2007). "Antigiardial activity of Ocimum basilicum essential oil". Parasitol. Res. 101 (2): 443–52. doi:10.1007/s00436-007-0502-2. PMID 17342533. 
  17. ^ Manosroi J, Dhumtanom P, Manosroi A (April 2006). "Anti-proliferative activity of essential oil extracted from Thai medicinal plants on KB and P388 cell lines". Cancer Lett. 235 (1): 114–20. doi:10.1016/j.canlet.2005.04.021. PMID 15979235. 
  18. ^ Tohti I, Tursun M, Umar A, Turdi S, Imin H, Moore N (2006). "Aqueous extracts of Ocimum basilicum L. (sweet basil) decrease platelet aggregation induced by ADP and thrombin in vitro and rats arterio--venous shunt thrombosis in vivo". Thromb. Res. 118 (6): 733–9. doi:10.1016/j.thromres.2005.12.011. PMID 16469363. 
  19. ^ Duke, James A.. "Basil as the Holy Hindu Highness". doi:10.1089/act.2008.14101. http://www.liebertonline.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1089/act.2008.14101. Retrieved 10 May 2008. 
  20. ^ EMEA (3 March 2004). "Position Paper on the use of HMP containing estragole" (PDF). p. 5. http://www.emea.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/Position_statement/2009/12/WC500018033.pdf. Retrieved 17 November 2006. "In particular, rodent studies show that these events are minimal probably in the dose range of 1-10 mg/kg body weight, which is approximately 100-1000 times the anticipated human exposure to this substance" 
  21. ^ Dube, S. et al. (1989). "Antifungal, physicochemical, and insect-repelling activity of the essential oil of Ocimum basilicum". http://rparticle.web-p.cisti.nrc.ca/rparticle/AbstractTemplateServlet?calyLang=eng&journal=cjb&volume=67&year=1989&issue=7&msno=b89-264. Retrieved 30 May 2009. 
  22. ^ a b Maurya, Prejwltta et al.; Sharma, Preeti; Mohan, Lalit; Batabyal, Lata; Srivastava, C.N. (2009). "Evaluation of the toxicity of different phytoextracts of Ocimum basilicum against Anopheles stephensi and Culex quinquefasciatus". Journal of Asia-Pacific Entomology 12 (2): 113–115. doi:10.1016/j.aspen.2009.02.004. 
  23. ^ Copetta, A. et al.. "Three arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi differently affect growth, distribution of glandular trichomes and essential oil composition in Ocimum basilicum var. genovese". http://www.actahort.org/books/723/723_16.htm. Retrieved 3 July 2009. 

External links

Other sources

  • Usher, Jonathan, "Narrative and Descriptive Sequences in the Novella of Lisabetta and the Pot of Basil (Decameron, IV. 5)," Italian Studies, 38 (1983), 56-69.

External links


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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Basil — Bas il, n. [F. basilic, fr. L. basilicus royal, Gr. basiliko s fr. basiley s king.] (Bot.) The name given to several aromatic herbs of the Mint family, but chiefly to the common or sweet basil ({Ocymum basilicum}), and the bush basil, or lesser… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • basil — aromatic shrubby plant, early 15c., from O.Fr. basile (15c., Mod.Fr. basilic), from M.L. basilicum, from Gk. basilikon (phyton) royal (plant), from basileus king (see BASIL (Cf. Basil)). So called, probably, because it was believed to have been… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Basil — m English: from the Greek name Basileios ‘royal’ (a derivative of basileus king). This name was borne by St Basil the Great (c.330–379), bishop of Caesarea, a theologian regarded as one of the Fathers of the Eastern Church. It was also the name… …   First names dictionary

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  • basil — [bā′zəl, baz′əl] n. [ME & OFr basile < ML basilicum < Gr basilikon ( phyton), basil, lit., royal (plant) < basileus, king] any of a genus (Ocimum) of fragrant plants of the mint family, esp. a white flowered garden herb ( O. basilicum)… …   English World dictionary

  • Basil — Bas il (b[a^]z [i^]l), n. [Corrupt. from E. basan, F. basane, LL. basanium, bazana, fr. Ar. bith[=a]na, prop., lining.] The skin of a sheep tanned with bark. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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  • Basil — Basil, so v.w. Basilios …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

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