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How I use herbs - basil

I grow basil every year and it has so many uses, I wanted to share it next in my herb series before it dies off in the first frost.

A couple of basil bushes in my garden this summer

How does Basil grow?
Every summer I grow some basil.  I know some people who can just sprinkle around some basil seeds and end up with more basil than they can use.  Not so in my garden.  I have to coax basil out of the ground.  It takes a long time (weeks!) to get to a decent size.  This year I didn't manage to raise any from seed despite several tries, so all I have in the garden is a plant that my mother in law grew and one I bought from the market.

One year I grew basil and I didn't pick it enough, it just grew two long stalks about 1 m tall.  Since then I have learnt to nip off the growing points so that it forms more of a bush.  If it starts to flower too early, you can just pick all the flowers, otherwise, let it go to seed and you might have more success than I do at growing some more!

Originating in India, basil's botanical name is Ocimom basilicum, a member of the Lamiaceae family, which also includes mint, rosemary, sage, savory, marjoram, oregano, hyssop, thyme, lavender (I don't know how they work out these families!).  There are lots of different varieties of basil, sweet basil is the most common, Thai basil, lemon basil, cinnamon basil purple basil are other varities.  Greek basil is a different species, Ocimum ovabatum, and tastes similar with smaller leaves.

basil flowers up close
What is Basil good for?
Basil has many medicinal properties.  It is recommended for digestion, so its lucky that it tastes nice and easy to add to various dishes.  I use it in all the obvious things, pesto, pizza, pasta sauces, but also chopped up and added to any casserole or sauce, and to salads.  

Basil is also reported to support the immune system.  It can also be used crushed and rubbed on the skin to both repel insects and to relieve insect stings and bites (I need to try this one!).

I haven't had much luck with drying basil, it tends to turn very dark and smell funny.  I find the best way to save a little basil for winter is to make pesto or paste with oil and freeze it in cubes, or make a basil infused oil.

making pesto

Macadamia pesto recipe
a handful of macadamia nuts
a couple of handfuls of basil
a couple of cloves of garlic
a sprinkle of parmesan cheese
enough olive oil to get a nice texture

Put all the ingredients in a blender until mixed (not too smooth)

Do you grow basil?  How do you use it?

Comments

  1. I'm a fellow basil lover. I wonder why you have trouble with growing it. I live west of Brisbane and we get the odd frost but my sweet basil and Thai basil self-seeds every year. Some of the different varieties are a bit picky though and, if I want them I need to buy them as seedlings. Love your pesto recipe.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Regular basil self seeds and shows up every year in odd spots in my garden. Never in the herb spiral where it belongs.... I had some purple basil in my microherb/sprout kits and let them grow a bit bigger. Purple basil looks so pretty, so now I have two types of basil....I hope that feels at home and self seeds as well. I also love to make pesto and keep it in little containers in the freezer. Funny that it is the same family as rosemary and lavendar, both of which struggle with the humidty we have here.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh I love basil and love pesto too!! I'm one of those people that it grows like crazy for. It's always self seeding, but I don't mind! I grow heaps, make pesto in bulk and freeze it. It's almost time to pull out one of the basil beds though and replant before the weather shifts.

    ReplyDelete
  4. well it sounds like everyone else has self-seeding success! I will have to keep trying....

    ReplyDelete
  5. Basil is my favorite herb. Unfortunately I have a very hard time getting it to grow to any size. My favorite use is to take a tomato that is still warm from the sun, slice it up with red onions or sweet onions and some mozzarella, drizzle on a delicious wine vinegar and olive oil. Top it all with sea salt and fresh basil. What a delicious, quick salad it is.

    ReplyDelete

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