Growing and Using Fresh Herbs

Time to Plant Your Favorite Herbs     

I love to cook with herbs.  I grow basil, oregano, mint, sage, thyme, lemon balm, and parsley.  I grow plenty enough to use all spring and summer and then I dry a bit of each to take me through the fall and winter.  One of my favorite herbs is basil.

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Origin of the Name Basil

The ancient Greek word “basilikohn,” meaning royal, is the derivative of what we now call basil. It reflected an attitude of nobility and a desire to extend hospitality, friendship, and honor whenever it was served.

Cultivating Basil

Basil does well in containers because it is very sensitive to cold, with best growth in hot, dry conditions. It prefers a well-drained rich soil and grows easily from seeds or transplants. The plant can also be propagated very reliably from cuttings with the stems of short cuttings suspended for two weeks or so in water until roots develop.

Harvesting Basil
Leaves can be picked fresh, be sure to pinch off flower buds to encourage more leaf production, otherwise when the plant starts flowering and producing seeds the leaves will be smaller.

Preserving Basil
The fresh leaves can be kept for a short time in plastic bags in the refrigerator, or for a longer period in the freezer. Leaves may also be dried and kept whole or chopped. Store in a cool dry place.

The Healing Properties of Basil

The main use of basil medicinally is as a natural anti-inflammatory.  Many naturopathic doctors prescribe basil in treatment of diabetes, respiratory disorders, allergies, impotence, and infertility. This may be because basil contains cinnamanic acid, which has been found to enhance circulation, stabilize blood sugar, and improve breathing in those with respiratory disorders.

Fresh basil leaves and basil oil have antibacterial properties. They can be used to disinfect surfaces. Leaves, applied to wounds, may eliminate infections.

Favorite Basil Recipe 

Ingredients
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
2/3 cup Raimondo extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese

Directions

Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
If using immediately, add all the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Transfer the pesto to a large serving bowl and mix in the cheese.

If freezing, transfer to an air-tight container and drizzle remaining oil over the top. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw and stir in cheese.

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