Using Basil – the “Royal Herb”

Cooking with flavorful herbs like basil can help you reduce salt use. Why are we mentioning this? Because the National Institute of Health reports that the average American consumes too much salt for optimal physical health.

Basil Has Many Names

We called it the royal herb in the title, because that is indeed one of the common names. Botanists call the most common species Ocimum basilicum but there are many other species found growing around the world in warmer areas – or at least warmer months in cold areas. Whatever you call it, it is a wonderfully tasty herb to grow and use lavishly in summer cooking.

savor-summer-basilWord Nerd Shares

The name basil comes from the Greek basilikón phutón, meaning “royal plant.” It made it’s way into Latin as basilius, and Spanish as basílico, hierba real, albahaca, or alhábega. In French, basil is sometimes called l’herbe royale (the royal herb).

 

savor-southwest-basil-AAS
This ‘Queen of Siam’ basil is incredibly flavorful. Photo courtesy of All-America Selections

Basil Harvesting and Use

Overall – basil is commonly used fresh in cooked recipes. It is generally added at the last moment, as cooking quickly destroys the flavor. The fresh herb can be kept for a short time in plastic bags in the refrigerator. Freezing chopped leaves or prepared pesto is an option; both are best used within a few months. Pesto can also be processed as a canned condiment and in my experience is still flavorful a year later. Dried basil loses much of its flavor, but is still useful as a herb in cooking.

One of my favorite ways to use basil is to make pesto.  Or munch it on a stick with other tasty bites – like shown in the “Featured Photo” at the start of the post.

savor-pesto-southwest

Basil Pesto

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. fresh basil leaves (a generous double handful)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 8 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Toast nuts in an ungreased skillet over medium heat until golden. Cool.

While cooling, rinse your fresh harvested basil and pat dry.

Place cooled pine nuts, basil, garlic and olive oil in a food processor or blender and puree until creamy.

Place in a bowl to stir in the cheeses.

Serve over pasta, rice, quinnoa or toasted tofu.

Thanks for Reading!

The Savor Team

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