The sweet basil of pesto got its name from the Greek basilikon, royal or kingly, possibly because its flowers match imperial Tyrian purple dye. In French it’s “the royal herb” and Catholics borrowed its Latin name basilica for their “royal” cathedrals. Basil was growing at the crucifixion site when Helen and St Constantine found the Holy Cross, so it’s honored at the annual Feast of the Cross, and used by Greek Orthodox to scent holy water. They also associate it with St. Basil and celebrate his January 1 feast day with priests blessing basil sprigs. Pots of the herb, which Greeks believe have healing power, are then placed around the altar. Sweet scent of basil is also associated with love. It’s mentioned B.C. as a flavor that drives men insane. In Shakespeare’s time, it was said “to procure a cheereful and merry heart.” On Portugal’s religious holidays of Saint John and Saint Anthony, dwarf bush basil is traditionally presented to a sweetheart in a pot, with a poem.
Holy Basil/Tulsi/Thai Basil»