Some interesting facts about Basil that you might not have known!
The word basil comes from the Greek βασιλεύς (basileus), meaning “king” as it has come to be associated with the Feast of the Cross commemorating the finding of the True Cross by St. Helena, mother of the emperor. The herb is linked religiously to many cultures around the world. Holy basil, also called tulsi, is highly revered in Hinduism. It is believed that the herb was found growing on the original cross of Christ when it was discovered by the Empress Helena, and hence basil has religious significance in the Greek Orthodox Church, where it is used to sprinkle holy water.
In many parts of 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.
As a main ingredient in many recipes, basil is most commonly used fresh in cooked foods. In general, it is added at the last moment, as cooking quickly destroys the flavour. 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 flavour, and what little flavour remains tastes very different. Basil is one of the main ingredients in pesto—a green Italian oil-and-herb sauce.
Basil has also been linked to medical uses. Basil is used for its medicinal properties in Ayurveda, the traditional medicinal system of India and Siddha medicine, a traditional Tamil system of medicine.