It’s the heavenly smell! Seriously though,Tulsi or Holy Basil is the most spiritual of all the basils and that’s how it got the “holy” in it’s name. It was first used in Vishnu healing ceremonies so it was grown all around the temple for easy use.
The History of Holy Basil
For more than 5,000 years, Tulsi (Holy Basil) has been revered as one of the most sacred herbs in India, infused with restorative power. Hindus view her as a goddess (a manifestation of Lakshmi) in the form of a plant bestowed with great spiritual powers. According to legend, no amount of gold could outweigh Krishna’s power, but a single Tulsi leaf placed on the pan in devotion tilted that scale. In India today, it is still traditionally grown in every family home or garden and used to make a delicious and refreshing tea. As Tulsi traveled west along the early trade routes from the Orient to Europe, it became known to the Christians as “sacred” or “holy” basil as is reflected in its Latin botanical name, Ocimum sanctum. They hailed Holy Basil as “The King of Herbs” instead of as a queen, and Holy Basil became included in legends, offerings and worship rituals and looked on by many as a gift of Christ.
The Wellness uses of Holy Basil
Modern research has classified Tulsi as an adaptogenic herb. Adaptogens have been shown to support the body’s healthy reactions to stress. Adaptogenic herbs have been used in the Ayurvedic tradition for thousands of years to promote and maintain wellness. Many adaptogenic herbs have been referred to by herbalists as rejuvenative herbs, qi tonic herbs, rasayanas or restorative herbs. They help the body adapt to environmental, physical and emotional stressors, support normal functions and restore balance, including the hormonal cascade, how the immune system functions, and brain chemistry. Tulsi is considered to have mild adaptogenic properties and can be enjoyed daily as a tea.
The Culinary uses of Holy Basil
The leaves of Tulsi have a sweet aromatic smell and a minty taste. They are used in garnishing food and soups, preparation of certain sauces and to make hot and cold drinks. The green leaves are very commonly eaten up raw in India so as to cure cough and cold.
Spicy Holy Basil Chicken (Pad Krapow Gai)
1/3 cup chicken broth 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, coarsely chopped*
1 tablespoon oyster sauce 1/4 cup sliced shallots
1 tablespoon soy sauce, or as needed 4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fish sauce 2 tablespoons minced Thai chilies, Serrano, or other hot pepper
1 teaspoon white sugar 1 cup very thinly sliced fresh holy basil leaves
1 teaspoon brown sugar 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups hot cooked rice
Whisk chicken broth, oyster sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, white sugar, and brown sugar together in a bowl until well blended.
Heat large skillet over high heat. Drizzle in oil. Add chicken and stir fry until it loses its raw color, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in shallots, garlic, and sliced chilies. Continue cooking on high heat until some of the juices start to caramelize in the bottom of the pan, about 2 or 3 more minutes. Add about a tablespoon of the sauce mixture to the skillet; cook and stir until sauce begins to caramelize, about 1 minute.
Pour in the rest of the sauce. Cook and stir until sauce has deglazed the bottom of the pan. Continue to cook until sauce glazes onto the meat, 1 or 2 more minutes. Remove from heat.
Stir in basil. Cook and stir until basil is wilted, about 20 seconds. Serve with rice.
*This recipe can be done with chopped or ground pork or pan fried tofu also
Fresh Holy Basil Tea-small batch
Boil 2 cups water, turning it off as soon as it bubbles. While boiling, loosely chop 1/4 cup whole stems of the holy basil. Place it in a sieve or steeper over a 2 cup pot or mug. Pour the water over the basil, making sure that the basil is covered with the water. Steep for 3-5 minutes.
Drying Holy Basil is as easy as winding 3-7 stems in elastic and hanging it for about a week. Or you can use a dehydrator also, stripping the leaves first.