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Basil is an herb in the mint family. It adds flavor to meals, and its nutrients provide health benefits. For example, its oils and extracts are said to have antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Fragrant fresh basil, for instance, offers a healthy dose of blood-clotting vitamin K -- 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil provide 27% of the RDA -- as well as vitamin A, manganese, and magnesium.
If your basil is bunched with stems, it will keep in a vase or jar of water on the counter for several days. Otherwise, keep it dry in the fridge for several days in a ziploc plastic bag. If your basil is damp when you put it in the fridge, its leaves will turn black.
Basil, like most soft herbs, is usually best added just before serving. Cooking basil tends to dull its bright flavor. Slice basil leaves thinly and use them to top sliced tomatoes, halved cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, pasta dishes, grain bowls, sauteed summer squash, green bean salads, and more. Of course, basil makes a wonderful pesto. We mix other herbs (like spinach,parsley, dill, or mint) into our pesto along with the basil; or we omit the cheese, and we add chopped sunflower seeds or walnuts. In the summer, pesto goes well on top of just about anything.
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