I admit it, I have a “thing” for basil. Yep, my own little love affair with a green plant. Basil is no ordinary plant in my world. It is the essence of summer in a leaf. I can’t imagine a summer without tomatoes and basil. I put basil on my sandwiches, sprinkle over my morning eggs and even add to my water bottle.
My basil plants (yes, I have many ‘cause I love ‘em!) are planted right outside my back door. Just seeing them flourishing as I come and go from the house, makes me smile. Summer wouldn’t be the same without my basil and I know it’s not summer until I can harvest the first few leaves. At this point in the summer, I am cutting huge branches of my basil and adding to all sorts of recipes, as well as freezing it, so I can survive the long cold, “basil-less” winter. Although I can get basil plants from my market in the winter, they aren’t quite as fabulous as summer basil. I use dried basil in the winter too, but like most ingredients, when I can get it, I opt for fresh.
Like so many fresh ingredients, basil is good for you. Basil has properties that help fight cancer, reduce inflammation, reduce stress, boost the immune system, and protect white blood cells. I just know that basil adds instant flavor and its aroma tells me something is going to taste yummy.
Here are my tricks to get the most enjoyment from basil:
- Plant after last frost. If you want to keep a basil plant indoors, make sure it has a lot of sunlight.
- Plant in a pot or raised garden for best results. If you plant in the ground, make sure the soil is not too compact.
- Fertilize with Fish Emulsion. Not necessary, but serious gardeners will fertilize.
- It’s not too late to plant now, and enjoy until your area has its first frost.
- Cut back the early branches to encourage the plant to bush out into many branches.
- Pinch any flowers off to delay onset of “going to seed”. When the plant goes to seed, it stops producing. This can happen if conditions change for the plant such as too much heat or the nights getting colder.
- Try different varieties such as a purple basil or a lemon basil. I love adding in the purple for color variation.
- Don’t be shy about cutting a lot at once. Just make sure to leave at least a third of the plant. Basil grows quickly and does better when you do cut it.
- Cut or pinch to a right above a leaf. Don’t leave a stub.
- Use the stems too. Depending on the dish, I cut up the stems and add them. Stems are even stronger in flavor than the leaves.
- Cut sprigs last longer in a container of water on the counter than in the refrigerator, where they will shrivel and turn black.
- Soak older or dry looking leaves in water to hydrate them before adding to your recipe.
- Cut the plant to the ground before the first frost. You don’t want to miss using even a single leaf!
- Basil cubes: Chop basil and place in ice-cube trays. Cover chopped basil with olive oil and freeze. Perfect to add to all sorts of recipes from pasta dishes to winter soups.
- Pesto: Make this pesto recipe and then freeze in ice-cube trays. Perfect to start off a recipe or use as a marinade.
- Vinegars: Add basil leaves to a bottle of vinegar with other fresh garden herbs. It’s a lovely gift.
- Dried: Wash and throughly allow to dry. Lay out on baking sheet and put in oven at lowest temperature for about 2-4 hours until crumbly. Store in an airtight container.
One more Tip:
If a recipe calls for fresh basil but you only have dried, use just 1/3 of the measurement, as dried is more concentrated.
Soooo Many Incredible Basil-Inspired Recipes!
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