Basil is known as “the king of the herbs” for a reason.

It has been cultivated for over 5,000 years. You may recognize the flavor or aroma from its widespread use in Italian dishes. It’s easy to grow in the garden or a sunny window although the plant is sensitive to cold weather. Some people even say that tomatoes taste better when basil is planted among the tomato plants! During prime growing season just one well cared for basil plant will provide approximately ½ cup basil each week! Basil is high in vitamin K and other substances known to be cardio-protective (heart healthy)!


How to use it:

When cooking with basil, it is important to add at the last minute to preserve its delicious flavor which is destroyed by the heating process. When storing fresh basil, use a damp paper towel to wrap around the bunch and store in a cool environment. It can also be stored with stems in water and tops covered by a sandwich bag or plastic wrap for 5-7 days. Leaves should not be frozen as they are, but here are some tricks to preserving fresh basil for use year round. Place the leaves in an ice cube tray and cover with water or stock for pre-measured easy ingredient additions. Place 1-2 leaves per ice cube section and cover with desired liquid (spaghetti sauce would work too)! Once they are frozen, the herb blocks can be stored in a freezer bag. Fresh basil can be eaten raw too. Create a delicious toothpick kabob by layering a cherry tomato, fresh basil leaf, and fresh mozzarella – drizzle balsamic vinegar for more flavor which complements the herb!


Pesto

Makes approximately 1 cup

4 c fresh basil leaves loosely packed (about 3 large bunches)
½ c olive oil
2 garlic cloves
½ cup pine nuts or walnuts (toasted or untoasted, your choice)
¼ c freshly grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste