To: <>
Subject: Herb study starting with basil
Date: Mon, 29 Jan 96 10:46:54 EST

Common Name: Basil
Latin Name: Ocimum Basilicum
Member of : Lamiaceae (mint family)

There are many cultivars of basil such as: lemon, anise, cinnamon, Holy, Thai, green ruffles, purple ruffles, camphor, opal, lettuce leaf, and bush basil, to name a few.

Growing requirements: Full sun, slightly acid (6.0 pH) rich, moist, well-drained soil. Treated as an annual in temperate areas. Grows to about 2 feet tall. Don't put it outside until it is warm.

Folklore: It was believed in Greek and Roman times that to have a good basil crop, you'd have to yell loudly and swear when you were planting the seeds. Today, in French, there is an idiom for ranting which translated literally means "to sow the basil".

Not sure what time period, but women who wished to show that they were "available" would place a pot of basil on their windowsills/balconies for suitors to see.

Medicinal uses: tummyaches- aids digestion and dispels gas, nausea, headaches and tension.

Culinary uses:

If you're looking for a lot of basil recipes, I recommend picking up "The Basil Book" by Marilyn Hampstead (ISBN 0-671-50685-4). Marilyn runs an annual basil festival at her herb farm. This is the largest collection of pesto recipes that I've seen.

Basil is wonderful with any tomato dish. I like red ripe garden tomatoes with a little vinegar and oil and chopped basil. Great in spagetti sauce.

I've used basil in an herb mayonnaise, which is wonderful to make chicken salad in the summertime. This one is just full of fat, but worth every mouthful. From one of the "Silver Palate" cookbooks, it's just a basic mayonnaise recipe with chopped basil added.

Pesto is an herb paste made with (usually) basil, olive oil, pinenuts and cheese (Romano or Parmesan). I've made it with toasted walnuts instead of pinenuts, and chicken broth instead of olive oil to reduce the fat content. I've also heard of mixing the pureed basil with fatfree ricotta cheese as a pesto substitute.

Pesto can be used over pasta, on pizza dough, baked between layers of puff pastry and cut into small squares as an appetizer, under the skin of poultry before roasting, in pasta salad (with chopped tomatoes, peppers, olives), in tomato soup.

Toss several leaves with zucchini, onion and tomato in foil. Grill or bake for about 20 minutes.

A few leaves can be tossed in with salad greens.

A basil butter is *great* on grilled fish, such as tuna or swordfish.

Preserving it:
I don't think dried basil tastes nearly as good as basil preserved in other manners.

Chopped up basil can be frozen in individual ice cube trays, covered with a bit of water, and when frozen, the cubes put in a freezer bag. This cube is the right amount for recipes for 2-4 people. I put a cube in soups just before serving.

Pesto can be frozen.

Basil can be mixed into butter and frozen.

Basil can be used to make an herb vinegar- especially one of the purple basils. This turns into a hot pink color.

Other uses:

reputed to keep flies away.

Let's hear about other uses for basil, and especially - some recipes!

Date: Tue, 30 Jan 1996 15:51:42 -0500

>>Today, in French, there is an idiom for ranting which translated literally means "to sow the basil".
>Does anyone know the French idiom? As a former student of French and one who "sows the basil" on too-frequent occasions, I'd be interested in knowing.

The French expression is "semer le basilic" for "raving." Apparently, the French believed their basil crops would only be productive if the farmer shouted profanities while planting the seeds. Actually, this was a custom earlier practiced by Roman and Greek physicians.


We didn't really do any folklore on basil...Carry it in your pocket and it brings money to your business..Ahh, let's see..Plant basil on your property and it keeps goats away and keeps you from becoming inebriated...It was also thougt to be a soother of tempers...if that were true, parents of teenagers should probably have a lot of it around... and witches were suppose to drink ½ cup of basil juice before they took to the air. For anyone out there who is a witch, this is not to make fun of your belief...It is just some things I read and thought were kind of cute ( for lack of a better word.)

From: Robin Greene <>

Here are a couple of my favorite recipes using fresh basil.

Fresh Tomato Sauce,****

Recipe By : Martha Stewart Living, June\July 1992
Serving Size : 4 Preparation Time :0:00

3 ½ pounds plum tomatoes, (about 4 cups) -- peel,seed,chop
1 teaspoon salt -- more to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic -- finely chopped
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes -- to taste
1 onion -- finely chopped
1 cup fresh basil leaves -- loosley packed
fresh ground pepper
pinch sugar
½ cup parsley -- coarsely chopped

Place tomatoes in a colander and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Set liquid drain into sink for about 30 minutes.
Heat oil in a 12-inch frying pan. Add garlic and red-pepper flakes, if desired, and cook until garlic begins to color. Add onion and cook over low heat until very soft but not brown, about 10 minutes.
Add tomatoes and basil. Add salt, pepper, and sugar. Turn heat to medium high and cook 5 to 10 minutes. until thick (sauce should bubble briskly). Stir in parsley and adjust seasonings.

NOTES : Really good sauce with 'Enchantment' tomatoes.

Shrimp Greek style *****

Recipe By : 60 Minute Gourmet
Serving Size : 4 Preparation Time :20:00
Categories : Ethnic Seafood

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic -- finely chopped
2 cups tomatoes -- peeled & seeded
½ can white wine, dry
salt and pepper
¼ cup basil, fresh -- chopped
1 teaspoon oregano, dried
1 ½ pounds shrimp, fresh -- devained
⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ pound feta cheese -- crumbled

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a skillet and add the garlic. Cook briefly, stirring, and add the tomatoes. Cook about 1 minute and add the wine, salt, and pepper. Add the basil and oregano. Cook over moderate heat about 10 minutes.
Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet and add the shrimp. Cook quickly, about 1 minute, just until shrimp turn red. Stir as they cook. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spoon the shrimp and any pan juices into a small baking dish. Sprinkle the shrimp with the crumbled feta sheese and spoon the tomato sauce over.

From: Mindy Vinqvist

Herb Garden Dressing (uses dried, which will tide us all over til summer)

1 c dried oregano
1 c dried basil
½ c dried marjoram
½ c dried dill weed
½ c dried mint leaves
½ c onion powder
2 tbsp dried mustard
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp freshly ground pepper

Combine ingredients, keep in sealed jar to use as needed

2 tbsp dried mix
1 ½ c extra-virgin olive oil
½ c cider vinegar

Mix and let stand 1 hour before serving. Mix again just before serving.
Can also be used dried and sprinkled over things (I recommend food things)

Cod, Basil and Tomato with a potato thatch

2 lb smoked cod
2 lb white cod
2 ½ c milk
2 sprigs basil
1 sprig lemon thyme
⅓ c butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
¾ c flour
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp chopped basil
12 med sized potatoes
¼ c butter
1 ¼ c milk
salt and pepper
1 tbsp chopped parsley

Place fish in roasting pan with milk, 5 c water and herbs (sprigs basil, thyme). Simmer 3-4 min, then let cool 20 min. Drain, reserving liquid. Flake fish, removing skin and bone.

Melt ⅓ c butter in pan, add onion and cook until tender. Add flour, puree and ½ the chopped basil. Gradually add reserved fish stock. Add a bit more milk if you need to thin the sauce. Bring to a boil, season with salt and pepper, add remaining basil. Add fish and stir gently. pour into ovenproof dish.

Boil potatoes and mash with ¼ c butter and 1 ¼ c milk. Add salt and pepper to taste and cover the fish with the potato layer. Bake for 30 min in a preheated 350F oven. Serve with chopped parsley

From: (Debra Widera)

I have made tomato-basil, lemon basil (both using the lemon basil& using grated lemon with everyday basil (what's the name for that kind?)), cinnamon basil, purple basil, spicey globe basil, etc. I have given much of this to friends, too.

OK here's the *basic* basil pasta recipe:

About ¾-1 cup fresh basil leaves (some stems are ok)
⅛ tsp. salt
pinch of pepper
1 T. oil
1 egg
A little water (about ⅛ cup)

2 cups flour for extruder; 2 ½ cups for hand crank
(these measurements are approximate, depending on machine type, humidity, etc.)
[I use regular, old, everyday flour--my pasta comes out fine]

In a blender or food processor, puree the first 5 ingredients. If using an extruder, put the flour in the processing bin and add the pureed mixture. Begin mixing. If the dough is too thick, add a little water.

If using a hand crank machine, leave the pureed mixture in the food processor and slowly add the flour until you have a sticky, but firm dough ball. Remove the dough from the food processor and knead in enough flour to make a firm (and not sticky) dough. Feed through hand-crank machine.

Hang pasta to dry for later use (dried cooking time: 30 sec. to 1 min.) or use now (cooking time: 20-30 sec.)

Now, the variations:

Tomato-Basil: add 1 small can of tomato paste to pureed mixture and increase amount of flour to compensate.
Lemon(peel)-Basil: grate about 1 T. lemon peel and add that plus 1 T. lemon juice to pureed mixture. Adjust amount of flour as necessary.
Lemon basil, cinnamon basil, spicey globe basil, etc. (the plants) can use a little extra pepper--freshly ground, if possible. I use green pepper for the lemon basil and red pepper (not paprika) for the cinnamon.

Basil is also good combined with garlic: puree the basil, etc., with about 1 T. finely chopped garlic.

I make *tons* of pasta: my favorite of these is the tomato-basil with a light alfredo sauce; or, dried & eaten as is. The lemon basil is good with butter (or canola oil) and freshly grated parmesan.


I just came across this one in "The Ultimate Soup Book" .

Bread and Tomato soup (Pane e Pomodoro)

3 c. chicken stock
4 c. water
¼ c. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 t. fresh bail leaves minced (that can't be *nearly* enough :-) )
½ pound of Italian bread, sliced and exposed to the air for a couple of days
2 c. fresh tomatoes, peeled, cored and chopped with juice
salt and pepper to taste

In skillet, heat oil. Saute garlic and basil in oil. When garlic is starting to brown, add bread slices. Use a spatula to flatten slices slightly. Brown lightly on each side. Remove bread. Add tomatoes and boil 3 minutes.

In soup pot, heat stock and water to boiling. Add tomatoes. Cover pot and simmer 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Place bread slices in flat soup plates, pour tomato soup over bread.

(this sounds so good- I might even be tempted to try this with canned tomatoes).

From: Judy Burley <

Since this is Basil week I have to give you this recipe. Actually I am making this for supper and putting it here for you came to me over breakfast.

Anyway this is called PUTTANESCA (Pasta of the Night) rumour has it that it was developed by "ladies of the Evening" in Seville and since it is quite quick to prepare it aids in time management (I didn't make that up it's written right here on the recipe)

So here goes,

8- 10 medium tomatoes
cut into ½ inch slices
2 sm cans of anchovies (you can't leave these out - trust me the fish taste dissapears in the cooking- but use them right after opening the can - sitting around doesn't help them)
½ cup or more of black pitted olives -chopped
½ tsp of dried crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup or more of fresh basil (I am using stuff I froze last summer)
5 cloves of garlic - chopped
Olive oil
1 - 1&½ pounds of spaghetti or fettucine or penne pasta
1 cup or m ore of freshly grated parmigiano reggaino or asiago
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C)
  2. In a large lasagna type pan about 12 inches by 15 inches make two layers each of the tomatoes, anchovies, garlic, pepper flakes and ½ cup of the basil, in that order. Drizzle each layer with olive oil and give a goos prinkling of black pepper. Bake in oven for 30 - 35 minutes.
  3. While the rest is baking - cook the pasta. Drain and put in a large serving bowl -toss with a bit of olive oil and half of the cheese. Chop up the baked mixture a bit and add to the pasta. Add the rest of the cheese and the rest of the pasta.
  4. Serve with a crusty italian bread to mop up the juices and offer more grated cheese and black pepper.

hint - if you are in a great hurry you can cook the mixture in a heavy pan on top of the stove - simmer for 10 - 15 minutes. Carry on with the rest of the recipe as usual.
This recipe is from the "Cooking without Looking Cookbook" put out by the CBC and Vicky Gabbereou as a fund raiser for street kids. I find that I can feed 4 with this and rarely have leftovers.

Culinary herb FAQ: