Basil is possibly native to India and has been cultivated there for more than 5,000 years. It is a half-hardy annual plant, best known as a culinary herb prominently featured in Italian cuisine, and also plays a major role in Southeast Asian cuisines of Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Taiwan. Depending on the species and cultivar, the leaves may taste somewhat like anise, with a strong, pungent, often sweet smell.
|Common Uses||Pesto, soups, and Italian dishes.|
|History||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 Constantine I. The herbalist John Gerard noted that those stung by scorpions would feel no pain if they ate of basil and Nicholas Culpeper noted of basil that it was "an herb of Mars and under the Scorpion, and therefore called Basilicon" relating it to basilisk. 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.|