Jordan Wine Country Table - Vol. 15, 2020 - 52

FOOD & DRINK
BEAUTIFUL
BASIL
CENTURIES OF CULTIVATION HAVE LED TO COUNTLESS VARIETIES
TO EXPLORE BEYOND THE SOLE CLASSIC AT YOUR GROCERY STORE
By Todd Knoll
asil is an herb of contradictions,
from its spicy-sweet profile to the
history and folklore behind it. It
likely originated in India more than
5,000 years ago, and made its way
westward to Mediterranean countries in the form
of potted plants. The word basil is derived from
the Greek basileus ( " king " ) or basilisk ( " serpent " ),
but surprisingly, Greeks don't use it in cooking,
preferring to place it at home entrances as a
fragrant welcome. Basil signified hatred to the
ancient Romans, yet it later became known in
Italy as a symbol of love. In the 17th
century, the
English hung basil in their doorways to ward
off evil spirits, and in the Victorian language of
flowers, it was said to represent both hatred and
best wishes.
Like other culinary herbs such as rosemary and
sage, basil is a member of the mint family. There
are more than 40 varieties of basil, each with its own
aroma and flavor. We grow nine different types at
Jordan, from the many sweet Italian varieties to
spicy Thai versions. Each brings its own flavors and
aromatics to the table for our guests. Some basils
show more anise, lemon and mint, while others
are sweeter.
B
I prefer Emily, a classic Genovese basil, for Italian
pesto, but for Asian recipes, I reach for Dark
Purple Opal, named for its
gorgeous
purple
color. For a red wine course, Opal's anise-like
notes can be a bridging element when added
at the end of the cooking process. I also like
the peppery intensity of Siam Queen Thai basil
for
Asian
dishes. By far,
our
favorite
course
for a summer meal is an heirloom tomato and
burrata salad served with jars of different basils.
The herbs double as centerpieces, and each jar
brings a different flavor to the dish. It makes for
great food and wine pairing conversation.
We use the flowers that grow at the plants' tips once
the basil has bolted. We use them as an aromatic
garnish atop caprese salads and other dishes. As
beautiful as the leaves are, the fresh blossoms bring
another dimension of flavor. As they open up on
the hot plate, their perfume immediately transports
the guest to the summer garden.
These are just some of the basil varieties we grow
at Jordan, each with its own unique color, aroma
and flavor. You can buy the seeds from Baker Creek
Seed Company and grow many of these basils in
your own garden.
52

Jordan Wine Country Table - Vol. 15, 2020

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