Basil is one of the most popular herbs typically found in pesto sauces, salads and pizza or virtually any Thai food dish. Not only does it have beneficial health properties, but it smells really great making them great additions to any floral arrangement.
Basil belongs to the same plant family as peppermint. The leaves are typically green, however there are other varieties that feature reddish or purple leaves. Each type has a slightly different taste.
Of course, as with any food, fresh basil tastes better than the dried versions you find in many stores.
Health basil leaves have a solid green appearance without any dark or yellow spots.
If purchasing in a store, whether fresh or dried, opt for organic which assures it is free from pesticides or irradiation techniques which decrease its nutritional value.
Health Benefits of Basil
Basil contains antioxidant properties from phytonutrients called orientin and vicenin which help protect your skin from premature aging and damage from UV rays.
Basil is rich in Vitamins A and K which help protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals. It also contains eugenol which has been shown to block cyclooxygenase, which is the enzyme that is attacked by medicines like aspirin and ibuprofen.
Like coconut oil, basil has anti-bacterial properties and can even be applied topically to treat wounds.
Adding basil to any homemade salad oils and dressings can help reduce the risk of getting sick from contaminated leafy greens.
Some other benefits can include:
- Relieving constipation
- Reduce flu symptoms and sinus infections
Types of Basil
While there are over a 100 varieties of the plant, however, the most common type found in pesto sauces in called Genovese. There are other varieties used in soups and vinegars such as Mrs. Burns’ Lemon and Round Midnight and the following:
Genovese- makes the best pesto sauce and grows between 12 and 15 inches.
Sweet Thai - spicy taste with purple stems and green leaves that grow between 12 to 16 inches.
Cinnamon - smells great with a spicy taste. Grows tall, between 24 to 30 inches with dark purple stems and flowers. Great for use in floral arrangements if you let it flower.
Amazon Price: $26.00 $13.33 Buy Now
(price as of Oct 19, 2016)
Growing Your Own Basil Garden
Basil is an annual plant meaning it will need to be replanted every spring. Growing basil is not difficult.
To get the most from your fresh basil plants, choose a location that gets 4 to 6 hours of sunlight, preferably morning sun. Try to avoid the hotter, late afternoon sun.
Select an area of your yard that is moist but drains well without any standing water after heavy rains in low spots.
If your soil is suspect or you live in an area of the country where the top layer is more like clay, then consider building a 5 x 5 planter box raised above ground. This type of arrangement is easy to build requiring only four 8 x 6 foot boards and smaller 4x4 boards to help support the square or rectangular shape. Then fill the box with a mixture of soil and compost material.
Basil can be purchased in pots at most nurseries, or grown from scratch. Either way, spread the plants or seeds in your prepared area providing a couple of inches between each plant.
Pack the soil tightly against the root ball of the plant, and cover with mulch to retain moisture in the general area.
If you are leaving your basil plant in a planter vase or urn on your deck, be sure to water it every few days. Make sure any plant holder has drainage holes in the bottom.
Once your basil plants take off, you need to prune it regularly to encourage new growth and prevent it from flowering. Harvesting basil should be done on a regular basis because once the leaves flower they lose some of their flavor.
Amazon Price: $11.00 $10.00 Buy Now
(price as of Oct 19, 2016)
How to Store Fresh Basil
When you purchase or grow your own fresh basil, it should be stored with a damp paper towel wrapped around the bunch, and store in the refrigerator.
If you do not plan on using it right away, freezing basil is an option. It can be frozen in an airtight container without issues.
Dry basil should be kept in a glass container that is sealed. It should keep for about six months.
How to Get Basil in Your Diet
- Add basil leaves to any salad or pasta dish
- Add basil to any smoothie for the health benefits and the antimicrobial properties
- Make your own basil pesto sauce by combining chopped basil leaves with extra virgin olive oil and Italian seasoning
- Add basil leaves to any sandwich in place of regular lettuce.
- Make your own homemade tea by boiling chopped basil leaves
Here is one of my favorite recipes using basil.
Basil Grilled or Baked Chicken
Basil recipes can be prepared over an open grill, stove top or oven.
First, begin by prepping your choice of cooking method and allow it to preheat. While that is going on, you need to create the basil sauce.
Spread fresh ground pepper on a plate, then place chicken breasts on the plate, turning so that the pepper is pressed into the chicken.
Melt 5 tablespoons of butter in the microwave, and stir in chopped basil leaves. Apply the mixture to the chicken breasts leaving some for when the chicken is cooking.
Melt another stick of butter and mix with minced basil leaves. Use the amount of basil leaves to your liking. Typically I mince about a 1/4 cup. Add parmesan cheese and garlic powder to the mixture, and season with salt and pepper as desired.
Now beat the mixture with a hand mixer until it is smooth and well-blended. Set this aside in a serving bowl. This will be served as a dipping sauce during your meal.
Place the chicken on the grill or your preferred cooking method and cook on both sides for a total of about 10 minutes. While the chicken is cooking, brush on the mixture you just made earlier.
Remove the chicken from the heat, and garnish with additional basil leaves. Serve the chicken with the melted butter and basil mixture.
Amazon Price: $4.99 $3.34 Buy Now
(price as of Oct 19, 2016)