Basil (Ocimum basilicum) – Also known as sweet basil and the royal herb, the name is derived from the Greek basilikon meaning royal, and legend has it that in ancient times only members of the royal class were allowed to harvest it, preferably with a golden scythe. It is an annual which may be grown as a perennial if protected from frost, and is a member of the mint family. It does well as a potted plant on a sunny window sill, and fresh cuttings can be rooted in a glass of water in just a few days. Hundreds of varieties exist, including opal basil which is dark purple in colour, and cinnamon, lemon, and even chocolate basil, all of which have a flavour and fragrance reminiscent of their namesakes. Basil is used the world over and plays a particularly large role in the cooking of the Mediterranean and Southeast Asia. It should be dried only as a last resort because it loses most of its flavour, but it freezes exceptionally well. Perhaps the best way to preserve the taste of basil is to make pesto Genovese, a puree of fresh basil leaves with olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese which will keep for several months refrigerated, and almost indefinitely in the freezer. A dwarf variety (Ocimum minimum) is considered the sweetest and mildest, and is preferred by the Genovese for making pesto.