Apr 282015
 

Basil health benefitsIt’s here, at last. Yes, that wonderful and fragrant time of year when you can stop buying basil in clamshells and start growing your own, or going to the farmers market for fresh basil. Sweet basil is most commonly thought of as the main ingredient in pesto, mixed with olive oil, pine nuts, and parmesan, but there are many, many more ways to incorporate basil in to delicious dishes.

Not only that–there are so many varieties available including Thai basil, purple varieties, such as Opal Basil. Lemon basil, anise basil, clove basil and cinnamon basil that all have flavors similar to their names. There are over 60 types of basil world wide.

Basil is a key ingredient in Mediterranean cooking, but was traditionally used by Hindus for its immense therapeutic properties. One of the most notable benefits of basil is its ability to combat stress. Some of you might be familiar with Holy Basil, sold as a supplement promoting calm and balance. Who isn’t looking for a little more of that in our hectic lives? Read more to find out ways to use basil and make your dishes pop with its sweet, liquorish like flavor.

Basil Health Benefits

Basil has a number of health benefits that are worth noting. Studies have shown that it provides protection at a cellular level from oxidation of free radicals, and radiation. It also restricts grow of unwanted bacterial growth.

From a nutrition standpoint, it has one of the highest levels of Vitamin K, vital for bone loss. It also has anti-inflammatory benefits that can provide healing benefits along with symptomatic relief for individuals with rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel conditions.

Watch this informative video on the many health benefits of basil:

 

basil-health-benefits

Click on InfoGraphic to enlarge. InfoGraphic courtesy of Colaboración Profesional Online Design presentations

Buying and storing fresh Basil

Whenever possible, choose fresh basil over the dried form of the herb since it is superior in flavor. The leaves of fresh basil should look vibrant and be deep green in color. They should be free from darks spots or yellowing.

How to store: Refrigerate wrapped in damp paper towels and plastic bag for up to 4 days or stems down in a glass of water with plastic over the leaves for about a week with regular water changing. Store the *dried herb for 6 months in a cool dark place.
* Substitution is 1 tsp dried basil = 1 tbsp chopped fresh basil

If you’re a gardener you know that herbs can quickly grow in to somewhat unmanageable proportions until you are begging your friends and neighbors to help themselves.

How can I use Basil?

What to do with all this basil? One approach to preserving herbs is to freeze them as cubes. To do this, you simply blend up clean, fresh herbs with just enough oil or *water to make a thick paste. The formula is simple: 4 cups of fresh green herbs plus 1/3 cup of nuts or seeds plus 1/2 cup olive oil, broth or *water (or a combination) plus 1/4 cup hard Italian cheese. Blend until chunky or creamy. Personally, I like to add the cheese at the time of serving.
You then fill ice cube trays (about halfway) with the herb paste and freeze. Once frozen, the herb cubes can be bagged and stored in the freezer until needed.

Note that *water-based herb cubes freeze more firmly than oil-based, but herbs discolor more in water.

Either way, these cubes are easily added to soups, stews, sautes and sautes.For the best effect, add them toward the end of cooking so the fresh flavor of the preserved herbs really comes through.
Now that your aboard the pesto ice cube train, you will be amazed at the many uses: Add to scrambled eggs; use as a sandwich spread; whisk with Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar and water to make vinaigrette; spoon over meat hot off the grill; toss with roasted veggies; mix with an equal amount of Dijon and spoon over chicken breasts before roasting. You, eugenol, sabinene, myrcene, and limonene. Lab studies show the effectiveness of basil in restricting growth of numerous bacteria, including : Listeria monocytogenes, can also add to dips, and create your own salad dressing or sandwich spread.

Basil bruises easily and since it shouldn’t be added until the end of a dish. Check out this fun video on how to chiffonade basil:

And if you haven’t started your own herb garden, click here to learn how. It’s that simple!

Grilled basil shrimp skewersRecipe for delicious Grilled Pesto Shrimp Skewers

I think you’ll love this week’s recipe for delicious Grilled Pesto Shrimp Skewers.

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