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The Love Herb: Basil

The Love Herb: Basil

Foods that taste great with basil
How to use basil
Grow your own

Basil is no snob. You can pair up this sweet, sharp-tasting herb with practically any food. Maybe it's because Ocimum basilicum is so agreeable, Italians consider it a symbol of love. Or perhaps basil (pronounced bay-zel) earned its status because of its heart-shaped leaves. Like most herbs, basil is available dried in a jar, but the flavor is much better if you use fresh basil. back to top

Foods that taste great with basil
When you think basil, you probably think tomato sauce with flecks of green basil. Maybe you've tried pesto, a green pastelike puree of basil, garlic, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and pine nuts. Both of these sauces are great with pasta or steamed veggies. But many other dishes contain this fragrant herb. Thai restaurants serve spicy basil dishes with rice and chicken or beef. A little fresh basil and tomato on a veggie burger makes a yummy sandwich. For extra flavor, add basil to vegetables, couscous, scrambled eggs, soups, meatballs, fish, shrimp, or chicken. back to top

How to use basil
To get in on the herbal love fest, buy fresh basil by the bunch in your market's produce section. You'll probably find it near the lettuce or tomatoes. When preparing fresh basil, rinse, pat dry, and gently chop the leaves. It's fine to chop up the soft, pliable stems too. If your market doesn't carry fresh herbs, you'll find dried basil in the spice aisle. Drying herbs almost always deepens, or concentrates, the flavor, so you'll want to use a smaller amount. One teaspoon of a dry herb is equal to about one tablespoon (or three times as much) of its fresh cousin. When cooking with dried basil, add it earlier than you would fresh basil. That way, the herb has time to absorb moisture and release its flavor into the food. back to top

Grow your own
If you really like the taste of basil and you have a sunny yard or window box, why not grow your own? It's easy. Although you can grow basil from seed, you'll have basil faster if you buy a small plant at the market or a local garden center. Transplant the basil by removing it from the small pot and planting it in a warm, sunny spot. Be sure to water your basil plant often, especially when you first plant it. Once the plant looks perky and has begun to grow, you can pick a few leaves from time to time. And it's free!

Learn more about Italian food and other Foreign Fare
Learn more about herbs and spices
Learn about medicinal herbs and natural remedies back to top

Last Modified Date: 12/5/2000
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