SRINAGAR: Among all the beverages that are served in Ramazan, basil seeds remain an integral part of breaking the day’s fast. Experts say that basil seeds have enormous health benefits and taking them after a day-long fast improves the appetite.
Dr Arshid Bhat, a Srinagar-based physician, said that basil seeds are a must-have during the month of Ramazan. “Basil seeds have an amazing medical benefit. They help in digestion, reduce frequent thirst, improve appetite, lower body temperature, and keep the skin in good condition,” Dr Bhat said.
In Asia, Iran is the main producer of basil seeds, followed by India. Traders in Kashmir claim that 70 percent of the seeds consumed here come from Iran and the rest from India. The hilly areas of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh are the main producers of basil seeds.
“Every year during Ramazan, the demand for Babri boel increases,” said trader Ghulam Mohammad. He said that that the current price of 1kg basil seeds is Rs 800.
“Most of the seeds that reach here come from Iran. Kashmir has a huge demand for basil seeds that are imported from Iran,” he said.
He said that the use of basil seeds is traditional. Earlier, herbalists used to prescribe these seeds to cure coughs and digestive problems.
“With time, their use has become confined to a particular period (of the month of Ramazan). However, there are still families who cultivate basil at home for daily use,” said a shopkeeper at Kokar Bazar.
The traditional recipe of sweet basil is soaking the seeds in water till they swell and turn a bluish grey. These are added to milk and mixed with sugar.
In Kashmir, basil sharbat is distributed on many occasions. People distribute glassfuls of milk with basil seeds to passersby on religious occasions as a token of charity.