Basil garners accolades for great taste, but it also provides a number of vitamins, minerals, cancer-fighting antioxidants, and even anti-inflammatory compounds.
Adding basil to meals provides a boost of vitamins A, C, K, folate, and other minerals. Studies have found that basil contains eugenol which has anti-bacterial properties. Eugenol is not only anti-bacterial but also anti-inflammatory. Chronic inflammation has been linked as a risk factor for the development of heart disease, cancer, diabetes mellitus, and more.
There are over 60 different varieties of basil, but sweet basil, Thai basil, lemon basil, and holy basil are among the most popular. Sweet basil, that pervading herb in Italian fare is delicious atop fresh summer meals. Along with pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil, sweet basil is a main ingredient in classic pesto. Thai and holy basil are commonly used in Taiwanese and Southeast Asian cuisines. Their leaves are less tender and fragile than sweet basil and are often cooked and steeped in thick coconut milk.
When choosing basil, make sure that the leaves are crisp and healthy-looking. Basil won’t last more than about five days in the refrigerator unless it’s extremely fresh. Try not to pick up any that’s wilted looking or has dark spots on the leaves. To prolong its freshness, store the stems in a little water upright in the fridge.
Basil is a quintessential herb of summer. It’s a natural companion to sliced tomatoes or torn into small pieces for a fresh garnish. Use it in our Quick Summer Pasta, Grandma’s Minestrone Soup, and our Pasta e Fagioli.