Basil, one of the most ancient and popular herbal plants, is prized by cultures around the world. Basil belongs to the family of Lamiaceae, in the genus: Ocimum. Its scientific name is "Ocimum basilicum." Basil is originally native to Iran, India and other tropical regions of Asia. Basil is a highly fragrant plant whose leaves are used as a seasoning herb in many types of foods. The bushy annual herb is also grown for its medicinal use.
Preparation and serving methods
The oils in basil are highly volatile and it is best to add the herb near the end of the cooking process, so it can retain its maximum essence and flavor.
- Dairy-free Pesto: Combine fresh chopped basil with garlic and olive oil that can top a variety of dishes including pasta, salmon and whole wheat brushetta.
- Adding basil to healthy stir-fries, especially those that include eggplant, cabbage, chili peppers, tofu and cashew nuts will give them a Thai flair.
- Purée basil, olive oil and onions in a food processor or blender and add to tomato soups.
- Enjoy a warm cup of invigorating basil tea by infusing chopped basil leaves in boiling water for eight minutes.
Selection and storage
Whenever possible, try to select fresh basil over the dried form of the herb since it is superior in flavor. The leaves from fresh basil should look vibrant and be deep green in color. The leaves should also be free from darks spots or yellowing. Fresh basil should be stored in the refrigerator wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel. You can also freeze it, either whole or chopped, storing it in an airtight container. Alternatively, you can freeze the basil in ice cube trays covered with either water or stock that can be added when preparing soups or stews.