Basil, which looks a lot like peppermint, is native to India and is considered sacred in the Hindu culture because it is believed to be a favorite of the gods. To the Italians, basil symbolizes love, but in Greek culture it symbolizes hate. It is most loved and used in Italian cuisine, and it also plays a major role in Southeast Asian cuisine. This tasty leaf is a powerhouse of flavor and essential nutrients.
Whenever possible, choose fresh basil over the dried form of the herb since it is superior in flavor.
The leaves of fresh basil should look vibrant and be deep green in color. They should be free from darks spots or yellowing.
Fresh basil should be stored in the refrigerator wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel. It may also be frozen, either whole or chopped, in airtight containers.
Dried basil should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place where it will keep fresh for 1-3 years.
Enjoy a warm cup of invigorating basil tea by infusing chopped basil leaves in boiling water for eight minutes.
Basil contains chemicals which repel insects. Certain experiments have shown that basil is toxic for mosquitoes.
Since the oils in basil are highly volatile, it is best to add the herb near the end of the cooking process, so it will retain its maximum essence and flavor.
Basil bruises very easily. Dull knives tend to bruise the basil leaves and crush the edges rather than slice them cleanly. It's also harder to make the very thin ribbons of a chiffonade without a very sharp knife. So for beautiful, bright green ribbons of basil on your plate, make sure your knife is sharp.
You can freeze basil in ice cube trays covered with either water or stock that can be added when preparing soups or stews.
Combine fresh chopped basil with garlic and olive oil to make a dairy-free variety of pesto that can top a variety of dishes including pasta, salmon and whole wheat bruschetta.
Adding basil to healthy stir-fries, especially those that include eggplant, cabbage, chili peppers, tofu and cashew nuts will give them a Thai flair.
Purée basil, olive oil and onions in a food processor or blender and add to tomato soups.
Basil is a very good source of vitamin A, through its concentration of carotenoids such as beta-carotene.
Basil is also a good source of magnesium, which promotes cardiovascular health by prompting muscles and blood vessels to relax, thus improving blood flow and lessening the risk of irregular heart rhythms or a spasming of the heart muscle or a blood vessel.
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