It is possible you think I have my days mixed up and that I meant this to be a Throwback plant. After all, basil has been around for thousands of years, right? Yes. However…basil is so paisley! I mean to tell you how. I promise, you’ll be wanting to order one or two or six varieties of basil for your gardens by the end of this post! That is a bold statement but I have the basil to back it up.
A short history of this very interesting plant…
Basil: Ocimum basilicum
Also known as St. Joseph’s Wort. A member of the family Lamiaceae which includes mint. Although native to India, it is grown world wide. And used in every culture (that I could find) for cooking. Most people know that it is great in the kitchen. Most people probably don’t know that in some cultures, basil is sacred.
The Greek Orthodox church uses it in the preparation for their Holy Water because it is said to have been found on the spot Constantine and Helen found the Holy Cross. In India, where it was first cultivated, basil is used in the courtroom for people to swear their truths by.
In several cultures, Italian, Romanian and Mexican, basil is a symbol of love. If he likes you, you might get a flower. If he loves you, he’ll give you basil!
So, what is there to love? Well, just about everything, but here’s few reasons I love basil.
- It is extremely easy to grow for beginners, for anyone.
- It is hardy, not bothered by heat, drought, it is not bothered by insects.
- It grows great with tomatoes and eggplants, they actually prefer it.
- It’s versatile for cooking.
- It’s a lovely plant with delightful flowers ranging in color from snow white drifts, mauve and fuschia, lavender to plum.
But I haven’t said my number one reason for loving basil. So, here it is…variety, variety, variety. There is truly something for everyone with this gem. Last year I grew eleven different kinds of basil, this year, just so far, I have started nineteen different kinds. When I say different, I really mean, really different.
There are varieties that have large, bright lime green ruffled leaves. But there are also basil varieties that have tiny, feathered leaves. There is purple leaved basil, red leaved basil, lettuce leaf basil, and creeping basil. And the flavors! Licorice, cinnamon, lemon, lime, sweet, peppery, chocolate, just to name a few!
I’m giving you four recipes to try. Plus some ideas for extending your basil bliss at the end of the growing season. Speaking of extending your season, basil grows great indoors, so really you could probably have it year round. If you haven’t already started some, now is the time to try one of the old or new great varieties and add this really paisley plant to your garden family. Here are some varieties you may have forgotten about, or perhaps have never heard of:
Lettuce Leaf Basil:
Red Rubin Basil:
Licorice Basil which has lovely silvery leaves:
Mrs. Burns Lemon Basil:
“Emily” which is kind of a more compact Genovese. Good for containers:
I hope I’ve enticed you to get your own basil this year, but if not here are a few of my favorite recipes that should put you right over the edge to order.
I hand chop my pesto. You can use a food processor but the end result will be slightly different from the hand chopped version. The main difference is with the food processor makes a kind of paste whereas a hand chopped pesto retains more of the individual properties of each ingredient. Don’t get me wrong, they are both delicious, I just prefer the texture of hand chopped. Without further explanation, here is what you will need:
- 2 large bunches basil of your choice* leaves only**
- 5 cloves garlic (the freshest you can find) I roast two cloves for 20 minutes keep 3 cloves fresh and use my garlic press to process
- 1 small handful pine nuts (toasted with 1 tsp sea salt sprinkled until slightly toasted bronze)
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese loosely packed and FRESHLY GRATED (no plastic bottles of cheese, all these great ingredients, why would you?)
- 1 1/2 tsp. course sea salt
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 3-4 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil (the best you can afford)
- Jars for storage
- Mortar and Pestle
- Gather all of your ingredients including the jars you will store your finished product. Basil discolors rather quickly so you want to get your pesto mixed as quickly as possible to avoid it getting too dark. However, the flavor is not affected at all by the darkening so if you can get over the look, don’t fret unduly about it.
- Chop your basil as tiny as possible, in mixing bowl add basil, 2 cloves roasted garlic peeled and smashed, 3 cloves fresh garlic pressed with garlic press or chopped very small, olive oil, sea salt, pepper mix well
- With Mortar and Pestle, grind toasted pine nuts, until small but try not to pulverize them, think chunky peanut butter consistency
- Add pine nuts to basil mixture, stir until incorporated.
- Now you can add a little more olive oil or sea salt to taste
*Different varieties of basil have different flavors, keep this in mind when you make your pesto. You may not like a cinnamon taste with your pasta, but you may love it. If you want you can make different kinds for different uses.
**At the end of the season right before frost will kill my plants, I use the entire plant of basil, stems and all, I use the food processor and make the paste type pesto and freeze a big batch of it. My family enjoys this type all through the winter and early spring, before the new basil begins to come in.
Pesto Chicken and Pasta
- 1 (16 ounce) package bow tie pasta
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium onion diced small
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
- crushed red pepper flakes to taste
- 1/2 tsp. course sea salt
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1/3 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and cut into strips
- 1/2 cup pesto sauce
- Cook Pasta 8-10 minutes or until al dente; drain
- In large skillet heat oil, cook onion and garlic until tender, add chicken and red pepper flakes, cook until golden and cooked through
- In large bowl combine chicken, well drained pasta, sun dried tomatoes, cheese and pesto, toss to coat evenly
- Garnish with fresh basil, sun dried tomato
Before you say, “Ewww gross” Try it with Lemon basil…it really is delicious.
This recipe uses lemon basil syrup which is this
- 4 cups packed fresh basil sprigs (top 4 inches; from a 1/2-pound bunch)
- 4 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
- 9 (4- by 1-inch) strips lemon zest
In a small saucepan bring all ingredients to a boil, stir until sugar is completely dissolved, Remove from heat, covered let stand until room temperature (about one hour) strain through cheescloth or mesh strainer to remove all solids. Refrigerate immediately in canning jar or other container with tightly fitting lid store for up to two weeks refrigerated.
- 5-6 lemons juiced (to make 1 1/2 cups
- 2 cups Lemon Basil Syrup (see previous)
- 2 cups cold filtered water
- 2 cups cracked ice
- Stir together all ingredients in a large pitcher, then pour into tall glasses half filled with ice. Garnish with lemon and sprig of lemon basil
- 5 oz. water
- 5 oz. sugar
- 5-6 limes zested and juiced
- 1 1/2 cups fresh squeezed lime juice
- 1 large bunch basil (lime, lemon, or your favorite flavor) chopped finely in the food processor
- In medium saucepan combine water, sugar lime zest, simmer for 4-5 minutes until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, allow to cool 3 minutes
- Add basil puree to sugar sollution
- Allow to steep for approximately 10 minutes
- Add freshly squeezed lime juice
- Allow to set 5 more minutes
- Pour through cheescloth to remove all solid particles
- Pour in to plastic tub or earthenware dish place in freezer.
- Sorbet is usually done in 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours, if you think about it, stir every 30 minutes or so
Here are some great places to get some great basil:
No matter where you get yours, just be sure you do. Basil, a very paisley plant.
Have a paisley basil day!~KeriAnne