basilsw.jpgBasil: (Ocimum basilicum)

Sweet basil, with it's wonderful aroma and flavor, is one of the most popular and widely grown herbs in the world. We associate basil with Italian cooking, so you may be surprised to find that basil originated in the far eastern countries of India, Pakistan and Thailand.

Culinary Use

Basil has a warm, resinous, clove-like flavor and fragrance. The flowers and leaves are best used fresh and added only during the last few minutes of cooking. Basil works well in combination with tomatoes. Finely chopped basil stirred into mayonnaise makes a good sauce for fish. Use as a garnish for vegetables, chicken and egg dishes. Large lettuce-leaf basil can be stuffed as you would a grape leaf.

Basil doesn't keep well in the refrigerator. Instead, place the cut stems in water and keep them on the windowsill. Sprigs stored this way will remain fresh a week or more.

Basil doesn't retain its flavor well when dried. Instead, layer basil between sheets of waxed paper and freeze. The leaves will darken when frozen this way, but you'll be pleasantly surprised at how well it will retain aroma and flavor. You can also fill ice cube trays with chopped basil, and then cover with water and freeze. Basil ice cubes are great for soups and stews.

Basic Pesto Sauce

  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup pine kernels
  • 3/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Blend the basil leaves in a blender. If your supply of basil is insufficient, combine fresh parsley and basil for a slightly different flavor.

Add the garlic and olive oil and process for a few seconds. Gradually add the pine kernels, Parmesan cheese and salt. The consistency should be thick and creamy.This quantity of pesto sauce is sufficient for 1 pound cooked, drained pasta. Mix 2 tablespoons pesto with the pasta and serve on individual plates with an extra spoonful of pesto on each helping.

Medicinal Use

To relieve sore gums, swish out the mouth often with a tea made from eight basil leaves in a cup of boiling water. A basil leaf tucked into the mouth over an ulcer and kept there for as long as possible will ease the pain.

Other Uses

  • Basil in the bath is refreshing.
  • Leaves and flowers can be dried for potpourri. * Burn sprigs of basil on the barbecue to deter mosquitoes.
  • A bunch of basil hung over the kitchen window or a pot of basil in the windowsill will deter flies.