Herb Garden Series – Basil

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One of my favourite herbs is basil. Have you ever had buffalo mozzarella, ripe and juicy cherry tomato, basil and balsamic vinegar piled on a cracker or piled on your fork? They’re gorgeous summer flavours that work any time of year. I wouldn’t suggest attempting to eat such a tower on a first date, but maybe a second!

Basil turns up in most Italian dishes like pesto, tomato sauce and as a pizza topping, but that’s only one type of basil: Italian large leaf. I was surprised to learn that there are more than 40 cultivars of this aromatic plant, each with its own unique taste and tang. Thai and holy basil are typically used in Thai, Vietnamese and Indian cuisine, but I add any of them to whatever I’m cooking.

Basil leaves aren’t always green either – you’ll find white or purple, and leaf size varies from small and delicate to large and robust.

As with all herbs, basil contains essential oils that can be antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, antioxidant and have anticancer activity. In addition to antioxidant vitamins and phenolics, basil is a rich source of vitamin K, zinc, calcium, magnesium, potassium and fibre. It adds a lot of flavour in a way that’s waistline-friendly.

Here is a favourite summer recipe I developed for my book, Sprout Right, that shows how to think outside the box. The recipe was originally created for a six month old to enjoy as a puree, but instead of eating the puree, we make popsicles. For adults, this makes an amazing cocktail base that can be spiked with your favourite. Just don’t get which is for who mixed up!

Watermelon, Peach and Basil Purée
2½ cups seedless watermelon
2 cups peaches
¼ tsp chopped fresh basil (or mint)

Remove the pits from the peaches and cut the fruit into small pieces.

Purée with basil in a blender, food processor or with a hand blender until smooth. Pour into popsicle moulds and freeze until solid.

Makes about 5 cups, so drink the rest or turn into a summer cocktail!

What you love to do with basil?

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