Herb of the Month – Basil – Ocimum sp.

Basil – Ocimum sp.

Basil, Ocimum basilicum, is an annual herb originally from India. Delicious with any cuisine it is usually affiliated with Italian cooking. There are dozens of different basil varieties, from citrus scented varieties to exotic flavors. They all grow easily in full sun with adequate water and do not tolerate cold temperatures.  The leaves are used in cooking, flower buds are also edible.

Basil, depending on variety, can grow from 6” to 2 feet or more. They need 5-6 hours of sun to be happy and grow easily from seed. Plant seed every 3-4 weeks for a constant supply. They work well in container gardens. Basil likes a rich, moist soil, but never soggy.

Try to keep basil from blooming and getting lanky, pinch off flower buds and harvesting on a regular basis. Flowering will compromise flavor and hasten the demise of the plant. Always pinch right above a set of leaves.

You can multiply your basil by taking cuttings and rooting in water, babying the plant a bit when you transplant it into soil. Aphids like basil. Remove the majority of them by pinching off the top parts of the plant and then spray down the rest with a hose end sprayer.

Basil grows well with tomatoes, and some of the bush and shorter varieties are hardier than sweet or Genovese basil, which is known for the best taste.
Basil is one of the chefs essential herbs. Use it at the end of preparation to preserve its taste and color. It can be used in salads, sandwiches, in Italian, Asian and Mexican cuisine. Try it with fruits, beverages and just snipped over sliced garden tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil.

Basil does not dry well so preserve it by processing it into a paste with olive oil in a food processor. You can then measure out spoonfuls on a cookie tray lined with parchment paper, freeze, remove, and store in a freezer container. You can also freeze in ice cube trays. Add garlic, Parmesan cheese, and some walnuts or pine nuts, and you’ll have ready-made pesto.

Pesto

  • ¼ cup pine nuts or walnuts
  • ¼ cup olive oil, if you need more, use it, you want a thick sauce texture.
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic

Process in food processor until smooth. Use on pasta, sandwiches, roasted vegetables, potatoes and more. Pesto is usually made with basil but you can use any fresh herb as a substitute.

Pesto

Author Susan Evans, Certified Clinical Herbalist

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup pine nuts or walnuts
  • ¼ cup olive oil if you need more, use it, you want a thick sauce texture.
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic

Instructions

  1. Process in food processor until smooth. Use on pasta, sandwiches, roasted vegetables, potatoes and more. Pesto is usually made with basil but you can use any fresh herb as a substitute.
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