Week 28: Basil
Basil is a highly fragrant plant whose leaves are used as a seasoning herb for many different types of foods. The round, often pointed leaves of the basil plant look a lot like peppermint to which it is related.
There are more than 60 varieties of basil, all of which differ somewhat in appearance and taste. It is prominently featured in a variety of cuisines throughout the world including Italian, Thai, Vietnamese and Laotian.
Basil is an excellent source of vitamin K and manganese; a very good source of copper, vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), and vitamin C; and a good source of calcium, iron, folate, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids.
DNA protection- Basil’s unique array of flavonoids helps protect cell structures, as well as, chromosomes from radiation and oxygen-based damage.
Anti-Bacterial properties- It makes good sense to include basil in more of your recipes, particularly for foods that are not cooked such as salads, which will help ensure that the fresh produce you consume is safe to eat.
Anti-Inflammatory Effects- A component in basil’s volatile oils can block the activity of an enzyme in the body called cyclooxygenase (COX). Many non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS), including aspirin and ibuprofen, work by inhibiting this same enzyme.
Cardiovascular health- Basil is a very good source of beta-carotene which is a powerful antioxidant that protects the cells that line our blood vessels from free radical damage. 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, spasms of the heart muscle or blood vessels.
Selection and Storage:
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, deep green in color and should be free from darks spots or yellowing. Fresh basil should be stored in the refrigerator wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel.
If you choose to use dried basil, try to select organically grown basil since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated (which may lead to a significant decrease in its vitamin C and carotenoid content).
Tips for preparing and cooking:
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.
This is a huge favorite in our house. Tomato basil pesto with mozzarella pearls from Once Upon a Chef.