PLANT FAMILY: Lamiaceae OTHER NAME: Sweet basil, Genovese HIGHT: Up to 50cm (20in) HABIT: A bushy annual with oval, bright green leaves and spires of tiny white flower
Common Name - Sweet basil, Genovese
Thought to be native to India and the Middle East, basil is now cultivated around the world, with many varieties available. There are a number of ancient beliefs and myths associated with basil; it was said to have grown round Christ’s tomb after the Resurrection and was seen as a symbol of love. It also had a darker side, thought to breed scorpions and associated by the Ancient Greeks and Romans with poverty and misfortune. In culinary terms, basil is particularly linked with Mediterranean cuisine, where it adds its aroma to dishes such as tomato salad, pasta sauces, and soups. Most famously, it is the key ingredient in pesto, a blend of basil, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan cheese and olive oil originating from the Italian port of Genoa, hence the name ‘Genovese’. Historic medicinal applications range from a digestive aid to a cough mixture.