Basil is an herb related to the mint family of rosemary, lavender, and oregano. It has round, usually pointed, green leaves, however, you can also find them in shades of red or purple. There are more than 60 varieties, all offering different tastes ranging from cinnamon or lemon to a more peppery taste. It can be found both fresh and dried, with the former being much more flavorful. Basil has been regarded as the 'king of herbs'.
HOW TO SELECT AND STORE
When possible, look to get fresh basil over dried for better flavor. The leaves should be dark green and free of spots or yellowing. Store fresh basil in your fridge, wrapped in a damp paper towel for up to 4 days. If you have a bunch of basil, try to store them stems-down in water with a plastic bag over their leaves. They will last in your fridge for up to a week if you change the water frequently. If you buy the dried version, store them in a dark, cool, and dry place for up to 6 months.
DID YOU KNOW
If you find your neighbor yelling at their basil plants, they may be onto something - the ancient Greeks and Romans believed basil would only grow if they screamed and shouted while they sowed the seeds.
A LITTLE HERE, A LITTLE THERE
Puree it with oil, garlic, and pine nuts for a great condiment of pesto
Skewer together a piece of mozzarella cheese, grape tomato, and a basil leaf for a bite-sized Caprese salad
Simmer in oil and then strain it for flavored oil
Chop up and sprinkle over hot pizza
HOW TO PREPARE AND COOK
Basil is a common ingredient in tomato sauces and pesto. Paring well with tomatoes makes it a great addition to tomato pizzas, such as Margherita. It also goes well with sweet bell peppers, fish, wine, or garlic-based sauces, blended with butter for a sauce or condiment, or eggs. No matter what cooked recipe it is added to, it is best to add it near the end of cooking to get the most out of its flavor.
WHAT DO YOU GET FROM IT
Basil provides Vitamin A, C, and K, iron, and calcium along with fiber, and potassium. It is associated with supplying antioxidants, helping prevent atherosclerosis, and has antibiotic characteristics.
TRY IT! PESTO
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups olive oil
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Process walnuts, pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor for 30 seconds. Add basil leaves, salt, and pepper.