A Grand Herb That Says “Welcome Summer” – Sweet, Fragrant Basil

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Anxious to get gardening early this year I decided to try growing basil and marigolds from seed. The large pot of basil above is about all that took root. The marigolds, while not a total flop, did not make much of a statement. To be honest I don’t really have the best environment for starting from seed. Not knowing if my tiny plants would grow, I bought a small basil plant at the garden store. The small pot of basil was the store purchase.

What is Basil

Basil, one of the world’s most favored herbs, it a tender annual of the mint family. Grown for its pleasant and distinct smelling leaves, it is most often used to flavor meats, fish, salads and sauces. It pairs well with fruits and teas as well. Basil, as well as marigolds, are great companion plants for tomatoes.

Health Benefits of Basil

Basil contains many of the macronutrients our bodies need, such as calcium, vitamin K and antioxidants. However, since it is consumed in such small quantities, vitamin K is the only significant contributor.

Some of the Ways I Use Basil

Bruschetta – There is nothing better in the summer than fresh garden tomatoes and basil. Versatile bruschetta has so many uses and is so easy to put together, I make it often. A quick mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chopped tomatoes, garlic, parmesan cheese, and basil with salt and pepper, of course, and it is ready to eat. I like it as an appetizer dolloped on a slice of toasted ciabatta bread, blue cheese crumbled on top and another little drizzle with balsamic vinegar. It is also very good spread over grilled chicken or with chicken in a salad. Serve with a chilled Chardonnay or light beer.

Caprese Salad – Staying with the tomato, basil and cheese theme, a caprese salad is a light and cool summer lunch or dinner salad. Using all fresh ingredients, layer slices of garden ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tear basil leaves over the plate or stack and drizzle with a bit of good balsamic vinegar. Serve with slices of crusty bread and a refreshing chilled Rose wine or pink lemonade.

Pesto – This is another quick and easy recipe to put together with so many uses. Basil, olive oil, parmesan cheese, garlic and pine nuts (walnuts work too) are blended together to make a thick chunky sauce. Serve pesto sauce over pasta, over meat, on pizza, add it to alfredo sauce or red sauce. It is even good spread on toasted bread with bruschetta and topped with fresh mozzarella.

Do you see the theme here – tomatoes, basil, cheese and bread? It says summe and a delicious combination, don’t you think? But, there are so many other options and this is a new year with a new crop of this fragrant, versatile herb. So as the summer goes on and my plants flourish (hopefully) stay tuned and I will be on the lookout for new recipes and ways to use basil. How about a basil oil? Or a strawberry basil jam?

Do you grow love and/or basil? I would love to hear how you use basil. What’s your favorite?

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