Basil, named "kingly herb" in Greek, is an essential part of Mediterranean cooking. It is also an important ingredient in the cuisines of South East Asia (Thailand, Vietnam). It's sweet, pungent flavour is reminiscent of licorice.

Availability

  • Available all year round in the grocery store, although it's peek season is summer.
  • If you are growing your own, it is best to harvest before it flowers.
  • Basil can be grown inside all year with adequate sunlight.

Purchasing

  • Look for brightly coloured fresh leaves with a strong scent. Avoid leaves with brown spots or signs of wilting.
  • In dried form can be purchased in chopped leaves or as ground basil.

Storage

  • Refrigerate: Wrap leaves in plastic and place stems in a glass of water in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Dry: Lay in shaded, well ventilated area for a few days, until leaves are dry and crisp or microwave on high for 2 minutes spread out on paper towels. If leaves turn black when drying discard.
  • Store: dried herbs in a cool dark place, in an airtight container.
  • Freeze: Finely chop and freeze in ice cube trays with a little water. Simply add basil ice cube to cooked dishes when needed.

Preparation

  • Basil is grown in sandy soil. Wash well to ensure all sand is removed.
  • Use fresh whole leaves or finely chop.
  • Crush dried herbs between fingers to release flavourful oils before adding to dish.

Pairs Well With

  • asparagus, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, onions, salad, spinach
  • lamb, chicken, turkey, eggs, tuna, cheese
  • stuffing, pasta, potatoes, rice, dried beans, savoury breads

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