A pungent, warming herb, basil is restorative. It helps restore your balance, especially of lung- or stomach-related complaints. Basil is used to treat mild depression, headache, or menstrual pain. It calms the nerves, aids digestion, and treats fevers, whooping cough, constipation, nausea, insomnia, fatigue, colds, and the flu. It is effective against bacterial infections and intestinal parasites.
Basil is low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Protein, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Riboflavin and Niacin, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Zinc, Copper and Manganese.
Herb leaves will keep for several weeks in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator if you are careful to keep all moisture out. Moisture will make them rot and exposure to air will dry them out and make them wilt. A paper towel in the bag will absorb condensation if that occurs, but I have found that after making sure they are totally dry and and the air is dry, that sealing them with a little air in the bag worked quite well. You can also place the sealed bag in the freezer where it will keep for up to a year. Frozen herbs darken and wilt when thawed, but the flavor will still be there.
Food Fun Facts:
Basil was originally native to Africa, Asia, and India, but is now cultivated around the world. Although there are over sixty varieties of basil. three common varieties are Sweet Basil, Purple Basil, and Bush Basil. They all have that distinctive rich spicy smell we all know and love, and can be used interchangeably.
One of the most popular seasonings in the kitchen, basil's wonderful taste and aroma will enhance any food; meat, fish, vegetables, cheese, eggs, and especially the traditional Italian tomato sauces.
Being of the mint family, it is recommended for digestive complaints, cramps, colic, and intestinal infections. Basil has been described as having a slight sedative action, and thus has been sometimes recommended for anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, and migraines. Modern medicine hasn't made use of basil and so no studies have been done to test its effects.
Simple From Scratch:
4 cups basil leaves
5 or 6 garlic cloves
1/2 cup pine nuts (or walnuts lightly toasted)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
To make pesto you need a food processor. A blender really doesn't work. Place the first 3 ingredients in the processor and run until everything is minced to a smooth paste. Drizzle in the oil as it is running to keep it mixing smoothly. Add the cheese and mix thoroughly.
To serve, add approximately 3 tbsp. of pesto per serving to hot pasta and mix until pasta is thoroughly coated. Serve plain or with steamed mushrooms or your favorite vegetable. Sprinkle with additional cheese if desired.
Pesto keeps for weeks stored in a plastic container in your refrigerator. Place it in small plastic containers in the freezer for use all year long.
From Christy Stebbins, Sandy Spring CSA
Shell the pecans (think of it as a meditation) and chop them with a large bag of basil and 4-6 cloves of garlic in the blender while dribbling in olive oil to your preferred consistency. Besides the regular uses, it makes a great sandwich spread with toasted gruyere on top of the Dakota bread.