Tradition - In Italy, basil has been and still is a sign of love. According to tradition, when a woman puts a pot of basil on the balcony outside her room, it means that she is ready to receive her suitor. Another tradition holds that when a man gives a woman a sprig of basil, she will fall in love with him and will never leave him. Today, he would probably have better luck if he made her pesto served over pasta with a little wine.
Medicinal - Given that basil is a member of the mint family, it is recommended for digestive complaints. Instead of an after dinner mint, try an after dinner cup of basil tea to aid digestion. Steep (about three minutes) a teaspoon of the dried leaves in a cup of boiled water. Basil has a slight sedative action which explains why its sometimes recommended for nervous headaches and anxiety.
Chef Tips: • Add several large basil leave to the liquid when poaching fish, shellfish or chicken • Cut a 10x10 square of aluminum foil and set it shinny side down. Arrange slices of zucchini, onion, and tomato in the middle of the square and toss in several basil leaves. Fold the square around the vegetables to make a tight packet, bake in 350 degree oven (or grill) for 20 minutes • Add a handful of basil when making beef stock • When making tomato or pizza sauce, substitute basil for oregano
• Basil is superb with veal, lamb, fish, poultry, white beans, pasta, rice, tomatoes, cheese and eggs. • Basil blends well with garlic, thyme, and lemon • Basil adds snap to mild vegetables like zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, parsnips, spinach - you can easily add basil to soups, stews and sauces in which these vegetable appear.
Garden Tips • Companion planting - gardeners recommend planting basil near peppers and tomatoes to enhance their growth. • If you can spare them from the kitchen, cut sprigs of basil to add to fresh flower bouquets and arrangements - it has attractive leaves and a sweet scent. • Plant purple ruffled basil with marigolds for a striking contrast • To encourage a bushy plant, keep pruning basil every two or three weeks (do not let it flower).
Cosmetic Tips Herbal baths - hydrotherapy - for stiff muscles and aching joints, to aid circulation, and to relieve tension. • Toss a handful of herbs into the bath and just soak in the water. For easier clean up - put the herbs (about a 1/2 cup) in some cheesecloth and hang the bundle from the spout while running the water or just put the bundle in the water and let it steep. Note, you can also use a tea infuser. • An infusion - pour boiling water over 1/2 cup of herbs then add this to your bath water.