Greek Basil: Cooking and Medicinal Info

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Basil, known as Vasilikos or βασιλικός in Greek, is one of those plants that grow abundantly in Greece, yet it isn’t necessarily the preferred herb to use when cooking. However, this all depends on the region of Greece. Those parts of Greece that have a distinct, Italian influence, such as on the island of Corfu, tend to use the herb more often. However, this all differs depending on the family. It has a naturally affinity for tomatoes, so cooks throughout Greece tend to reach for it whenever tomato sauce or paste is involved in a dish.

Where is Basil from in Greece?

Basil grows wild throughout Greece and is a native plant of the Mediterranean. It is also cultivated in the country and sold in both fresh and dried forms in markets throughout Greece. It’s an easy plant to grow at home so many families have basil in their gardens or growing in pots.

How Does Basil Taste?

The flavor of basil is described as sweet and aromatic, with slight hints of anise, mint, and even pepper, depending on the variety. It pairs especially with tomatoes because basil brings out the tomato’s natural sweet flavor.

What Greek Recipes Use this Basil?

Skordostoumbi, Stoumbi, Tahinosoupa, Saltsatomato

What are the Herbal Remedies for Basil?

Basil is especially good for spasms, such as muscle spasms and even those in the digestive track that result in stomachaches. It has a specific action on the digestive system and has been used for diarrhea, nausea, and even flatulence. It can also be used for colds and to relieve water retention.

Interesting Facts About Basil

Many people in Greece don’t eat basil because of its association with a religious event known as the “Elevation of the Cross.” Although there are no set religious-related rules against eating this herb, many Greeks haven’t developed the flavor for eating it. According to the story, Empress Helene in 326 A.D. is said to have found the original cross that Jesus was crucified on. When she found it, basil was growing in the earth in the shape of a cross. She named the plant “Vasiliki”, or basil, which means, “of the king.” She realized that the cross she found was Jesus’s because when a sick woman kissed it, she was made well.

Sources:

Wikipedia – Basil

WebMD – Basil

Many Greek recipes are different based on the region of Greece and family traditions, so uses of the herbs and spices contained on this page may vary. Also, GreekBoston.com does not provide medical advice and the information provided here is for informational purposes only. This isn’t a medical site, please consult with your physician. The medicinal health information is based on anecdotal evidence and Greek history.

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