Probably originating from India basil (Ocimum basilikum) belongs to the plant family of the mint family. In its country of origin, this herb has enjoyed great esteem for millennia before it reached the Mediterranean. Its name comes from the Greek words "basileus" and "ozein", which means "king" and "smell" and is probably due to the extraordinary aromatic smell of this plant. The German name "Königskraut" also indicates this name origin. Since the 12th century, the basil plant is also known in Central Europe. In addition, this spice is today widespread throughout Asia, Central and South America (especially California).
Active ingredients and healing properties of basil
Main ingredients of basil are essential oils. They occur within the different odor varieties in very different composition. The main flavorings are cineole, linalool, citral, estragol, eugenol and methylcinnamate. In addition, there are substances such as camphor, ocimen, geraniol, methyleugenol and cinnamic acid esters.
The European basil available from us mainly contains linalool and cineol, while the eastern European varieties contain more eugenol. Citrus-scented varieties contain mainly citral, and the cinnamon basil owes its aroma to a cinnamic acid ester contained in it. Strong estragol-containing varieties have a sweet taste and smell of anise or liquorice (Thai basil, aniseed basil, New Guinea basil).
Basil: Healthy or carcinogenic?
As with the tarragon, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) advises consumers to use basil only for seasoning, since the basil-containing estragole and methyleugenol in animal experiments have a mutagen-damaging and cancer-causing effect. However, no studies indicate a health risk to humans, and it has been found that only a small part of the flavorings get into a tea infusion. The essential oil of basil helps against insect bites, nervous insomnia and migraine.
Basil as a kitchen herb with a healthy effect
Throughout the summer months you can harvest the fresh leaves of basil for the kitchen. This should be cut off the whole shoot tips, so that the plant does not bloom too early and branches better. Basil has an appetizing effect, promotes fat digestion and helps with stomach upset. Because of its sharp, peppery taste, basil should only be used sparingly.
It goes well with fish, herbal sauces, meat, poultry, scrambled eggs and potatoes. Especially the taste of vegetable soups and salads is refined by the addition of fresh basil, and it is used to make many herbal oils and vinegars. In Italian cuisine, basil is a staple of pesto and tomato dishes. In addition, basil is suitable as a dietary spice because it can replace the salt.
Plant basil and grow
From June on, the shoot tips of the basil plant open the arranged in Scheinquirlen white to pink flowers. The variety of basil is very big. There are 60 varieties of different plant and leaf size, color (green and red leaved) and aroma. Basically, the green, large-leaved varieties are more robust and better suited to our climate, while the more delicate varieties have a finer flavor.
Basil in the garden needs a sheltered spot in humus rich soil that does not dry out. This plant is very cold-sensitive, which is why this spice is better placed on the windowsill in cold, rainy summers. The best harvest time of the basil is about to bloom. The best way to preserve the leaves is by freezing, because drying is associated with great losses in aroma.