For fresh ideas on how to use that beautiful UBC Farm produce you picked up from our Market, check out the Veggie-of-the-Week blog post series! Crafted by a team of UBC students in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems as part of their Community-Based Research project with Friends of the Farm, these posts contain neat info on folklore, nutrition and recipes corresponding to some of the produce items currently available at the UBC Farm. This week, basil!
Basil is a well-loved seasoning in many different cultural cuisines. From Italian pasta to Taiwanese-style fried chicken, basil plays an important role. Its potent, slightly spicy fragrance lends a sophisticated taste to many dishes. In Italy and Romania, basil is regarded as a symbol of love.
Basil comes from the same plant family as peppermint. It has round but pointed leaves that are usually green in color, although there are also red- and purple-leaved types among the 60 varieties out there, each with somewhat different appearances and tastes. Stemming from the historical conviction of Greeks and Romans that pungent basil could only be grown if a gardener cursed and ranted while sowing the seeds, the French expression “semer le basilic” (sowing basil) means to rave.
How to select and store
Choose fresh basil over the dried form of the herb when possible since it is superior in both flavor and quality. The leaves of fresh basil should be deep green in color and without any dark or yellow spots. When purchasing dried basil, try to select organically grown basil since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated. Irradiating basil can lead to a significant decrease in its vitamin C and carotenoid content. Fresh basil should be stored in the refrigerator wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel. It may also be frozen in an airtight container. Dried basil should be kept in an airtight container, where it will remain fresh for about six months.
Tips for cooking with basil
For best results, add basil near the end of the cooking to ensure that its flavor is not lost through too much heat.
Basil is an excellent source of vitamin K. Basil is also rich in iron, calcium and vitamin A. In addition, basil provides abundant dietary fiber, manganese, magnesium, vitamin C and potassium. As a result, basil plays a vital role in the healthy functioning of blood, bones and eyes. It also promotes cardiovascular health and is a good source of antioxidants.
Some simple, delicious recipes using basil:
Simple Garlic and Basil Pesto
Recipe courtesy of All Recipes
- 3 cups chopped fresh basil
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 1/8 cup Brazil nuts
- 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- Place the basil in a blender. Pour in about 1 tablespoon of the oil, and blend basil into a paste.
- Gradually add pine nuts, Brazil nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, chili powder, and remaining oil. Continue to blend until smooth.
- Serve on pasta, gnocchi, pizza, or appetizers.
Double Tomato Bruschetta
Recipe courtesy of All Recipes
- 6 Roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped
- 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, stems removed
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 French baguette
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (optional)
- Preheat the oven on broiler setting.
- In a large bowl, combine the Roma tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, basil, salt, and pepper. Allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes.
- Cut the baguette into 3/4-inch slices. On a baking sheet, arrange the baguette slices in a single layer. Broil for 1 to 2 minutes, until slightly brown.
- Divide the tomato mixture evenly over the baguette slices. Top the slices with mozzarella cheese, is using.
- Broil for 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.