One of my favorite summer friends is basil. Not the man, the herb! Between the lovely aroma, the list of health benefits, and the delicious taste addition to so many dishes, this green beauty stands tall as a winner on all fronts.
Fairly heat tolerant, we’re able to grow our own basil plants and harvest at will, even here in very hot Florida! Whether you grow your own or find yours at a local farmer’s market, I’d like to offer an interesting harvesting tip.
At some point I’ll bet you’ve placed your basil into the fridge, and fairly soon you noticed that the leaves turned an unsightly black color. To keep this herb fresh and robust, you can make the most of the its wonderful scent and also create a summer bouquet right on your kitchen counter. Trim the stems as you would roses, place them in cold water away from direct sunlight. Change the water daily and your sprigs will last around 5 days.
Varieties of basil abound! Check these out in addition to the classic Genovese:
• Thai basil has a unique flavor of anise
• Lemon basil – extra special for seafood and salads
• Holy basil – pungent flavor
• Spicy cinnamon basil – yes, delicious on desserts!
• Purple basil – especially rich in anthocyanins – the same type of strong anti-oxidants found in blueberries and red cabbage
Okay, I teased you with a list of health benefits. Here you go, 5 great facts about fabulous basil:
1. Is a great source of vitamin K. There have been studies that suggest increasing your vitamin K intake may help guard against diabetes as well as other chronic issues.
2. Contains potent flavonoid antioxidants, which may wield anti-aging properties and possibly even protect against cancer.
3. Contains oils like eugenol and linalool that have strong antibacterial properties. Keep this in mind when cooking chicken and ground meat, making them safer to enjoy.
4. Offers high levels of carotenoids, which studies have shown may actually improve mood, decreasing anxiety as well as balancing cholesterol in the blood. Wow!
5. Along with other herbs adds wonderful flavor to our foods, minimizing the desire for added salt, and indirectly helping to keep blood pressure in check.
I love this fabulous herb in blended green drinks. In this hot weather, my green drinks are the fuel that keeps me going! Not juices, mind you, blended drinks which leave the fiber in the final product! So I wanted to share one of my favorite concoctions with you right here.
To prepare approximately 2 servings. Place the following ingredients in a Ninja or Vitamix;
• 1 inch water
• 1 medium beet
• 3 or 4 basil tops
• 2 handfuls of spinach
• ½ lemon including peel
• 1 small Granny Smith apple
• Handful of ice cubes
Blend — and get ready to feel just great!