Summer Basil Adds a Lot More Than Just Taste
Herbs — fresh, dried and in extract or essential oil form — have been used for hundreds of years as preservatives and medicines, so they’ve always been considered valuable and beneficial. Today, scientists are isolating herbs’ active ingredients and studying their properties. Their findings provide more reasons than ever to include herbs in our diet, not just as a healthier replacement for salt, but for their varied and unique health benefits.
Sweet basil, for instance, has a long history of use for indigestion and gas, headaches and anxiety. Research shows that it has significant anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity, and that it helps to prevent radiation and oxygen-induced DNA and cell damage. It even has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties that kill some of the bugs, such as Shigella, Listeria, and E. coli, that can be found in unwashed salad greens. Plus, it’s a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, potassium and iron.
Basil’s Aromatic Benefits and Culinary Flair
In aromatherapy, basil oil is used to “uplift and harmonize.” Traditionally, basil was used as an herb that could nourish a person’s growth to perfect health and enlightenment.
Basil has a rich flavor all its own, with a hint of pepper and mint. It comes in dozens of varieties, such as lemon, lime, anise and cinnamon, all with flavors that that subtly reflect their name.
Enjoy a taste of Italy by layering fresh basil leaves over tomato slices and fresh mozzarella cheese. Or add basil to a stir-fry to add a Thai flair.
And for the headiest basil dish ever, enjoy the classic, pesto. During the summer, when basil is available in abundance, is a great time to whip up some fresh batches. Freeze some and dig it out of the freezer in January to recreate a sense of fragrant Mediterranean nights.