Got loads of basil and you're not sure what to do with it? Basil is good for so much more than just pesto and spaghetti sauce.
Basil is not only delicious but it also has multiple health properties. It's also high in vitamins A, C, K, omega-3 essential fatty acids, folate, calcium, magnesium, iron, and more.
If you have a bounty of basil in your garden or CSA basket, here are some wonderful ways to put it to good use.
- Toss a handful of basil onto the coals or wood chips of your barbecue to deter mosquitoes while you’re grilling, plus impart a wonderful taste to the food.
- Put some basil leaves in your sandwiches for a more grown up alternative to lettuce.
- Add it to any tomato-based dish. Basil likes to grow next to tomatoes (they help each other in the garden) and complements any dish that contains tomatoes. Add the chopped or torn leaves at the end of cooking.
- Make basil simple syrup to use in cocktails, iced tea, lemonade and more.
- Toss torn basil leaves in salads.
- Make basil butter. Use the butter to flavor fresh cooked veggies, corn on the cob, baked potatoes, garlic bread and pasta.
- Make basil-infused olive oil.
- Relieve the itch and sting of insect bites by adding a poultice of fresh basil to the bite. The easiest way to make a poultice is to simply chew a few leaves and apply the mixture directly to the bite. Alternately, you can rub the leaves between your fingers to release the juice and apply that.
- Repel mosquitoes. Just rub fresh leaves on the skin.
- Keep it fresh in a jar of water at room temperature. Basil will darken and age quickly in the refrigerator, but will last on the kitchen counter like cut flowers (with just the stems in water) for over a week if the water is changed daily.
- Keep it in olive oil in your fridge. You can cover torn or chopped basil leaves with olive oil and store them in the fridge for several months.
- Boost your brain. Chewing fresh basil leaves is an old remedy in some parts of the world that is said to help memory, prevent stress and keep the mind sharp.
- Pair it with chocolate. Try mint-basil chip ice cream or Dark Chocolate & Basil Truffles or Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes with Basil. Want more? Try this round-up of lots of other delicious pairings of basil and chocolate.
- Make a healing tea. Basil is a natural anti-inflammatory and immune-booster that has been used for centuries to treat many ailments, including rheumatoid arthritis, bowel inflammation, diabetes, respiratory disorders, upset stomach, allergies, sore throat and much more. Steep leaves in boiling water, flavor to taste and drink one to two times a day or as needed.
- Freeze it. For best flavor, lightly coat it with olive oil first.
- Dry it. To do this in seconds, just scatter the leaves on a paper towel and microwave for a few seconds at a time (turning and checking often) until crisp and just dry to the touch. Store the leaves whole in an airtight container away from light and heat, where they will last for about a year.
- Make homemade spaghetti sauce. Our family's favorite recipe uses fresh garden tomatoes in this simple roasted tomato sauce.
- Elevate fresh sliced tomatoes with chopped basil, salt and fresh cracked black pepper and let sit for a half hour, then top with feta cheese, vinaigrette or salad dressing, or serve as is.
- Preserve the leaves in salt. Just pour a 1/4 inch of salt into the bottom on a glass pint jar, add a layer of basil leaves and repeat until the jar is full. Seal the jar with a lid and store in the fridge, where it will last for about 6-9 months.
- Or make basil salt.
- Add it to green smoothies. Basil pairs well with strawberries, blackberries, mango, lime and lemon. Start with a small amount of basil with milder greens such as spinach and add more as needed.
- Add fresh basil leaves to a hot bath (or steep the leaves in boiling water and then add the liquid) to help reduce stress and encourage relaxation.
- Help your mouth by chewing the leaves (which are anti-bacterial) to help treat infections, freshen breath and preserve dental health.
- Make simple basil vinegar.
- Or reuse your wine bottles and do the slow version. Use basil vinegar in salad dressings and marinades.
- Alternately, make a blended basil vinaigrette that you can use as a salad dressing and also as a sauce for fish, chicken, potatoes, tomatoes, or white beans.
- Basil is said to help headaches and migraines. Either drink a tea made of fresh leaves or add basil leaves to a pot of boiled water, cover with a towel and then breathe in the steam for five to ten minutes. Some people also report relief from simply chewing a few fresh leaves.
- Make purple basil lemonade.
- Add pureed basil to your homemade pasta (here's my gluten free pasta recipe).
- And of course, pesto. Recipes abound, but the basic directions are simple. Just place a few cups of basil leaves and a little olive oil into a food processor. Add more olive oil slowly until it becomes a runny paste, then add Parmesan cheese, garlic and pine nuts or walnuts. Toss with fresh cooked pasta or use as a topping for a variety of dishes.
Do you have other favorite ways to use basil? Add them in the comments!
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