Basil Glossary |Health Benefits, Uses + Recipes with Basil | Viewed 45939 times

Also Known as
Tulsi, Basil

What is Basil?

Basil is considered a royal and sacred herb not just in India, but also by other communities such as the Greeks. It is a culinary herb native to India and tropical regions of Asia, and has been cultivated for more than 5000 years. The herb has a strong smell and is used commonly in Italian, Thai and Vietnamese cuisine.
There are more than 60 varieties of basil available including sweet basil, Thai basil, holy basil and lemon basil. The varieties come in different colours like dark green, red, purplish etc.

Chopped basil

Place 4 to 5 basil leaves on top of each other on a chopping board and thinly slice vertically using a knife. Now hold all the sliced basil together and finely chop horizontally. Chopped basil is used to flavour soups, stews and sauces.

Shredded basil

Hold 4 to 5 basil leaves in your hand and roll to form a thin cylinder. Hold the rolled basil leaves on one hand and knife on the other hand. Now, chop along the edge/ concentric rings of the cylinder to get thin, fine shreds, Shredded basil can be used as toppings on pizzas, as a garnish on soups etc. It is also used to make Basil tea in which shredded basil is infused in boiling water for two minutes and then had in batches during the day.

How to select Basil
• You can choose from various varieties of basil, fresh or dried.
• However, fresh leaves have a better flavour than the dried ones.
• The leaves of fresh basil should look vibrant and be deep green in colour.
• They should be free from darks spots or yellowing.
• Ensure that the leaves are not wilting and are free from any tears or cuts etc.

Culinary Uses of Basil
Basil, or Tulsi, is an herb that is used for culinary purposes i.e. for cooking. Even though associated mostly with Italian or Mediterranean cuisines, it actually originated in India. Apart from these cuisines even Thai and Vietnamese cuisines use basil to flavor their food. In India, basil is also known as Tulsi.

1. The best way to use fresh basil is to tear it into pieces and add it at the last moment to salads, pizzas or pastas. The reason behind this is that basil contains volatile oils which get destroyed on over cooking.

2. Generally basil is associated with Italian food because one of the most famous dishes, Pesto pasta, has originated in Italy. It is a basil, cheese, pine nut, garlic and olive oil sauce used in Italian cooking for pastas, pizzas, dips etc.

3. Basil is also used to flavor soups, whether crushed or freshly torn, is also put over salads, starters and main course.

Full details of uses of basil here.

How to store Basil
• Fresh basil should be packed in zip lock bags and stored in the refrigerator.
• You may, however, freeze fresh basil for later use. To do this, first blanch the basil leaves in boiling water for two seconds, refresh in ice cold water and then pat dry. Place in airtight bags in the freezer.
• Dried basil should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place where it will keep fresh for about six months.

Health Benefits of Basil
• Basil is an excellent source of vitamin K and a very good source of iron, calcium and vitamin A.
• Vitamin A is required for healthy eye sight, skin and hair.
• In addition, basil is a good source of dietary fibre, manganese, magnesium, vitamin C and potassium.
• Recent research shows that compounds in basil oil have antimicrobial, antiviral and antioxidant properties (because of the presence of carotenoids).
• Basil also exhibits anti-inflammatory properties, making it good for people who have arthritis.
• Basil tea is said to help recover from problems like dysentery, nausea and stomach ache due to gas.
• It stimulates the appetite and helps curb flatulence.
• It is traditionally used for the treatment of stress, asthma, diabetes, common cold and cough too.

Nutritive Information for Basil / Holy Basil:
1 cup of chopped basil / holy basil is about 20 grams
RDA stands for Recommended Daily Allowance.

Energy - 5 calories
Protein – 0.6 g
Carbohydrate – 0.5 g
Fat – 0.1 g
Fiber – 0.3 g

316.4 mcg of Vitamin A = 6.59% of RDA (about 4800 mcg)
3.6 mg of Vitamin C = 9% of RDA (about 40 mg)
13.6 mcg of Folate (Vitamin B9) = 13.6% of RDA (about 100 mcg)
83 mcg of Vitamin K = 69% of RDA (about 120 mcg)

35.4 mg of Calcium = 3.54% of RDA (about 1000 mg)
0.6 mg of Iron = 3% of RDA (about 20 mg)
3.65 mg of Magnesium = 8.5% of RDA (about 350 mg)
11.2 mg of Phosphorus = 1.8% of RDA (about 600 mg)
59 mg of Potassium = 1.25% of RDA (about 4700 mg)

Related Links

Dried basil
Thai basil