Monday, July 20, 2009
I love basil. I love how you can smell it growing on hot days. I grow sweet basil, native to Iran, India and tropical regions of Asia. It’s been around for 5000 years. It’s good for you too. Compounds in basil oil have been found to have antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti-viral and anti-microbial properties. In some studies, basil has been shown to decrease the occurrence of platelet aggregation in your arteries. (Marc take note) Traditionally, basil has been used to treat stress, asthma and diabetes.
My Basil is ready for harvesting. I’ve been picking leaves for awhile, to garnish salads and hot dishes but the hot weather has caused my basil to start to flower... or so I thought. After doing a little research, I’ve learned that basil is programed to start flowering when it has six pair of leaves on the stem. If I had known this I would have cut them back to two leaves per stem or no more than four. That way you can continue to pick basil all summer without it going to seed. So, I’m doing that now, to make pesto.
Studies have shown that basil keeps better if you pick it as late in the day as possible. If you want it to keep it fresh, store it in one of those reusable perforated plastic bags at 60˚. It will keep about 2 weeks at that temperature, but how many homes are 60˚ in the summer, not mine. Your refrigerator is too cold, and basil will only last about 2 or 3 days in there. You can also put the stems in a glass of water, just remember to change the water daily. Or, better yet, just grow it yourself, then you can pick it as you need it. Almost anyone can grow basil. A pot in your kitchen window will do if you have no outdoor space.
Heating basil destroys it’s enzymes and most of it’s flavor. It’s best to add it to your dish at the last moment, as a garnish for the maximum flavor and nutrition.