If a person loves herbs, they love basil. It seems to be everyone's favorite herb and the recipes are endless that take advantage of this fresh and spicy leaf. I personally think if you can only grow two plants it should be a pot of tomatoes and a pot of basil. With these two plants and a few basic pantry items you can treat yourself to gourmet faire!
Basil is an annual, and is easily grown from seed. There are over two dozen types of basil including lettuce-leaf which has large leaves, cinnamon basil and the purple leafed varieties. Basil is not frost tolerant at all, so be sure to only plant after the soil has warmed completely. Though it needs full sun, it does need more moisture than some herbs, so keep it watered; especially in pots. You can bring basil inside as a window herb if you plant the seeds during the warm weather in pots and bring inside to grow in a bright and sunny window.
Using and Preserving Basil
Basil can be frozen, dried, or preserved in oil. It's delicious however you choose to preserve it. Basil is also available year round in most produce sections. Add leaves to salad or sandwiches with your lettuce, saute at the last minute with almost any vegetable and add to soups. It is also wonderful in herbal vinegars mixed with oregano and thyme. The following recipes are just a few of the many you are sure to run across!
This wonderful mayonnaise can be used for burgers, sandwiches, or to coat chicken before roasting.
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
Blend in food processor or blender until smooth.
Basil and Tomato Bruschetta
12 pieces crusty Italian Bread, 1 inch thick
1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil
2 large, ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
24-36 basil leaves, torn into small pieces
12 garlic cloves, peeled, and cut in half lengthwise
salt and pepper
Toast bread over a grill or a very hot oven of 425 degrees. Brown on both sides. Remove and brush with oil. In a bowl combine tomatoes, oregano and basil. Place cloves in separate bowl. Serve bread warm and rub garlic cloves on bread, top with mixture and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
I also sprinkle and with parmesan cheese and put under the broiler for just a minute to heat top.
4 tablespoons olive oil
8 cups washed and dried basil leaves
Blend until pureed. Transfer to clean jar. Store in refrigerator. Each time you use it stir and then top with a thin layer of oil. It will keep one year by doing this. This is good on grilled chicken or fish, stirred into soups or mixed with sun dried tomatoes and broiled on bread.
Walnut and Basil Paste
1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
3 cloves garlic, peeled
3/4 cup walnut pieces
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons red wine or herb vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
Place the basil in the work bowl of a food processor. With the motor running, drop in the garlic and process until basil and garlic are finely chopped about 15 seconds. Add the nuts, cheese, vinegar and oil. Process to make a rough paste, about 20 seconds. Smear evenly onto poultry, fish or vegetables just before grilling. Makes enough for about 2 pounds of poultry or fish.
1 stick butter, softened
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
1 tablespoon finely chopped basil
Cream butter, beat in garlic and lemon juice. Mash in basil; season with salt and pepper. Place bowl in refrigerator to firm butter. For a nice, simple appetizer use room temperature butter on grilled pieces of baguette or French bread.
About the Author Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer, wife and mom to three living in the Midwest. She is also editor of http://oldfashionedliving.com, where you will find articles on gardening, herbs, crafts and other old fashioned topics.