History And Lore

Basil was first introduced to Europe in the 16th century. In India it was believed it would ward off misfortune and the herb was planted throughout their temple gardens. For much of it's early history it was used as "funeral herb" and was scattered or planted on grave sites.

Basil had a love/hate relationship among many cultures. It represented everything from hat and misfortune, to "love washed with tears", and some even thought it was poisonous. 16th Century Brittan awarded it more positive virtues and considered it a sweet herb and used in scented waters and even put into nosegays.

Basil is now considered one of the most popular and widely used culinary herb

Buy And Store

Basil is best picked or purchased fresh and used within a few days. To refrigerate first wrap whole stalks and leaves in slightly dampened paper towels, place in a plastic bag, and store for 4 days. Another storage method is to place a "bunch" of basil stems down, in a glass of water. You can also place a plastic bag over the leaves and refrigerate for up to two weeks. Basil stored in this manor will benefit from a water change every couple of days.

Basil is one of the least successful herbs when dried. The dried product loses most of it's flavor. Better methods of preserving basil include storage in olive oil or even honey.

Medicinal Uses

Fresh leaves are sometimes rubbed on insect bites to relieve the sting and itch. An infusion is sometimes made from the leaves and combined with honey and take to relieve cold symptoms.

It is suggested to use the diluted essential oil for insect repellent OR use as a massage oil to relieve depression.

Culinary Uses

Typically used fresh in classic dishes such as pesto. Combines well with most recipes that include tomatoes. Other basil varieties used in Thai and other Asian cuisines.

Nutrition Information For Basil

Serving Size
1 tbsp, chopped
Calories from Fat
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g
Saturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 0mg
Total Carbohydrate 0g
Dietary Fiber 0g
Sugars 0g
Protein 0g
Vitamin A  0% Vitamin C  0%
Calcium  0% Iron  0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Equivalents & Substitutions

  • Equivalents 1/2 oz fresh = 1 cup chopped leaves
  • 1 tbsp fresh = 1 tsp dried


Asian basil, tarragon, summer savory

Grow Your Own

Basic requires moist, well drained, rich soil. You can grow from seed or buy small plants in early spring. Make sure to plant after any danger of frost has past.

Basil is a great herb to plant in containers.

Buy Seeds


Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.