The herb Basil, AKA St. Joseph's Wort, probably first appeared in India, where it was associated with the Goddess Krishna and became a revered element of the Hindi relegion.. The ancient Egyptians used it as an embalming agent. The Greeks considered it to have religious healing powers and kept bowls of basil near the alter of the church. It is placed on graves throughout much of the Midde East as a token of rememerance for the departed. In other cultures it was thought to be an emblem of Satan and became associated with poverty, hate and misfortune. Still others considered it a symbol of love and purity. and a tool for testing one's chastity. (It was thought a sprig placed in the hand of the unchaste would wither.) It became known as the "Herb of Kings" due to its use in the royal baths for its scent.
It arrived in England in the 1500's and was subsequently brought to the Americas by the English settlers. While it was used in India primarily for its aroma, the Western world found it to be a flavourable addition in cooking,
Today there are over 250 varieties, and counting, of the herb. Since it cross pollinates so easily, two separate varieties grown in proximity will almost certainly produce a mutation. As a result, there are cinnamon, lime, lemon, spicy and licorice scented Basils from which the cook may choose.
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