The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

3:15 PM

Food of the Day - Fresh Basil

Posted by Magic of Spice

Basil is a member of the mint family, and even the varieties so prized by Italian cooks
 Originating in Asia and Central Africa
Grown as an annual here in California, basil is actually a perennial and thrives in warm Mediterranean climates
The nearly infinite varieties of basil are boundless
Cultivated extensively in France, Hungary, Egypt, Indonesia, Morocco,
 Greese, Israel and here in the United States
There are two main types that lead the pack
European and Egyptian basils
The Europian varitety of Sweet Basil (also cultivated is US) is generally concidered to be of the highest quality especially for culinary endeavors
Basil is also popular for medicinal uses,
Long thought of as an aid for the digestive system

Selecting your basil:
Aroma is the best detection of a fresh and flavorful bunch
Look for leaves that are not limp and are free of dark spots
Note: It is a myth that if the basil is in flower that it is not good
In fact the levels of the essential oils can be at their peak at this time
Let your nose decide

Storing Basil:
You can store in the refrieratoe with stems in water and covered lossly in plastic for about a week
The optimal was is to freese your fresh basil
You can places your leaves in a sealed plastic bag, or place chopped in an ice cube tray
Famous in Italian cuisine, this heb is used to flavor a vast variety of dishes
Also used widely as a garnish
The essential oil is used medicianaly frequently in oral products
And has become very popular as an ornimental plant in gardens

A Few Types of Basil:

Thai basil:
Also sometimes reffered to as "Licorice Basil", having an aroma and flavor of licorice
Great in your stir fried, as well as your Thai and Vietnamese dishes
Also used in dishes prepaired with Red Curry
The flavor of this basil is bolder than your sweet varieties

Genovese basil :
Here is a favored for Italian dishes like pesto and marinara sauces
The aroma is similar to your sweet basil having a strong clove like sent
The leaves of this basil are quite large and more tender than other varieties

Lemon basil :
Very popular in Indonesia cuisine the herb is called  'kemangi' there
Having a srong and highly fragrent lemon sent, ecellent for salads and sauces
As well as soups and stews
And makes an excellent tea
This one is lankyer than other varieties and having flatter leaves

Cinnamon basil :
This one is very popular in your deseart courses and hot drinks
The strong sent and taste of cinnimon lends this basil to be a favored both in the garden as well as a popular garnish
You can dress up a fruit and cheese platter nicely with this one
another one as a tea
The leaves are of a heavier and stronger texture than those of the sweet varieties

Some popular Ornamental basil plants:

Siam queen basil:
Deep mint green leaves and large flower heads
Gives of a spicy anise sent and is eatable 
Can grow relatively large up to 2 feet or more
This one is good as a potted plant if you don’t want it to take over the garden

Dark opal basil:
This one has a deep burgundy and purple hue
Flowering with delicate pink buds, this one is also edible
Great for salads and as a garnish
Another good sized plant reaching 2 feet

Purple ruffles basil:
This is perhaps the most colorful of you basil varieties
The leaves are ruffled and the essence is a combination of cinnamon and licorice
Produces lavender or pink flowers
This one reaches 1 foot or more and requires a bit less sun than most
Another edible

African blue basil:
This one has beautiful purple stems with flowering of pink and purple
Make sure you have plenty of room for this one, growing to 4 feet
However like other basils can be kept trimmed back
*Not recommended for culinary uses

Holy basil:
With alluring green and purple foliage
Another clove scented and ideal as an addition to any landscape
This plant has fuzzy leaves and boasts lovely white and pink flowers
Another of the larger varieties growing to nearing 3 feet
*Not recommended for culinary uses

Lets Grow It:
 All basils are  annuals which are easy to grow
They however preffer warmer weather
Plant once the danger of frost has past, prefferably late sring
Make sure wether you are using pots or directly in the garden,
that there is ample drainage
Baisil does best when grown from small starter plants
Trim plants frequently as they are growing to encourage branching
It is recomended that you use mulch to descourage weed growth
Only light furtilization is required 
Make sure that the soil is consistantly moist but not overly wet
To harvest you can pinch back individual leaves for imediate use,
or in by the stem for larger dishes or long term storage

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