Like rosemary, basil is another one of my favorite herbs! Its fragrant, bright green leaves are most renowned for use in the Italian sauce pesto, a yummy combination of basil, pine nuts, olive oil, parmesan cheese, and garlic. Pesto is great as a pasta sauce, sandwich spread, or to flavor salads, such as a quinoa veggie salad. But, if you don’t make pesto, you can simply use fresh chopped basil in spaghetti and pizza sauces, as a pizza topping, in stir-fries, salads, scrambled eggs, or fresh tomato, mozzarella and basil appetizers. So many ways to use basil!
This popular herb packs far more than an aromatic punch! According to 100 Best Health Foods: “Basil has long been used in traditional herbal medicine as a remedy for indigestion, nausea, and stomach ache. It is mildly sedative and an infusion of basil oil can even be used as an insect repellants and to offer sting relief.” The leaves contain a chemical (called eugenol) that is an anti-inflammatory similar to aspirin and can help relieve the pain of arthritis. Basil is high in lutein and zeaxanthin, which are good for your eyes. And, two tablespoons of chopped fresh basil provides 27% of the recommended daily allowance of blood-clotting vitamin K as well as vitamin A, manganese, and magnesium.
Throughout the summer, my CSA provides large bunches of basil. I try to use it right away because, in my experience, basil doesn’t store for very long; soon the leaves turn black. I usually make pesto and freeze it in ice cube trays to make “pesto cubes” – after they are frozen, I put the cubes in a freezer container and pull out what I need throughout the fall and winter. But, sometimes life is too busy and I just can’t find the time to use the freshly picked basil. After much experimenting, I found a technique to store basil in the frig for 4-5 days, giving me more time to “get to it”. Here’s my method: 1) dampen a lightweight cotton flour sack dish towel; 2) wring out all excess moisture; 3) gently roll the basil up in the towel; and 4) put it in a Planet Wise bag in the frig.
So, back to pesto…pine nuts are expensive and this year’s bunch of basil came before I bought my annual stash of pine nuts. Low and behold, I found so many fun recipes on the web for making pesto with different nuts, such as pecans, hazelnuts, and almonds. And that’s the eco-friendly way I like it — Don’t waste food, use what you have, and have fun making healthy, yummy, organic food! Bon appetite!
Photo credit: Basil mozarella tomato slices: JeffreyW
Other photos: Katie Grenier