Basil, Bliss, and Bug Bites

Basil is a beautiful thing.  Just pluck one lovely leaf and breathe it in.  Ah, the pungent perfume of long languid days, lounging under the Tuscan sun, sultry summer evenings strolling the Piazzale Michelangelo, taking those silly snapshots, holding up the “leaning tower of pizza” (as my daughter calls it)….  Ok, Ok, I’ve never been to Italy, but basil takes me there.  Bellissimo!

In Italy, a bouquet of sweet basil is a symbol of love, and this is hardly surprising.  Basil is an aromatic aphrodisiac.  Its fragrance—deep, rich, sweet, yet strong and spicy—rivals that of the finest flowers, and this one you can eat.  So, the suitor who sallies forth with a bunch of basil in hand would seem smart and sensible, and if he could whip up a nice vegan dinner to go with it, well then.  Bravo, magnifico, do it again please.

Saucy basil

Fresh sweet basil pairs famously with tomatoes.  In fact, they are good companion plants in the garden, as well as in the kitchen.  Basil also plays nicely with garlic, onion, parsley, marjoram, and ginger, among other things.

Always add basil after the cooking is finished.  Tear up fresh basil leaves and toss them into or onto any savory dish: pasta salads, red sauces, onion soups, spinach dips, veggie wraps, pizzas, and one of my favorite fast foods—basil with chilled guacamole salsa.  This is not an Italian dish, obviously, more Mexican meets Italian, but the basil makes it fantastico, that is to say, “fantastic,” not “extremely bizarre.”

Basil guacamole salsa

  • 4 ripe Hass avocados (remove skin and pit, mash the pulp)
  • 1 tsp. lime juice
  • 2 cups of your favorite organic salsa (1 jar, 16 oz.)
  • Handful of shredded fresh basil leaves
  • Optional extras ~ minced garlic, black olive slices, chopped red sweet pepper, or chili pepper

Mix all ingredients and chill.  Serve with light organic tortilla chips.  Share it with the sweetheart who brought you the basil.  Buon appetito.

Healthy basil

Basil may be the queen of culinary herbs because it smells and tastes terrific, but it is also a nutrient-dense superfood, rich in vitamins A, C, K, omega-3 EFAs, folate, calcium, magnesium, iron, and other essentials.

Basil is also a healing herb.  It acts as a mild sedative and a nerve tonic, and it relieves indigestion, stomach cramps, bloating, and nausea.  Rub the leaf juice on the skin to repel insects, and apply it to acne and insect bites to help healing, advises renowned herbalist Andrew Chevallier, author of many widely used herbal references.

Basil tips

~ For true love, homegrown basil is best.  Basil needs warm, fertile soil, regular water, and at least 6 hours of sunshine each day.  Ours grows well in large pots of composted leaf mulch, and even self-seeds, in a sunny spot on our patio.  It also grows like a weed in our sunny veganic garden.

~ Pick basil leaves before the stalk begins to flower.  Snip off the top cluster of leaves to keep it from flowering and to encourage side branches.  (If it does flower, you cat eat the flowers, too.  Just be careful, as bumblebees are fond of these flowers as well.)

~ In the kitchen, don’t cut basil with a knife.  Tear it up with your fingers instead.

~ A little bit of basil goes a long way.  If you want to save some for later, put stems in a cup of spring water.  For the finest flavor, don’t put basil in the refrigerator, don’t cook it, and don’t dry it.

~ To use basil for skin care, tear a few fresh leaves in half or into quarters, roll the leaf pieces back and forth between your palms to release the juice, and rub the juice onto the affected area.  It does work (for me, anyway).

Happily ever after

Getting back to the story of romance that began with a bunch of basil, it all ends happily. After he and she indulge in a batch of basil guacamole salsa, dining al fresco on a mid-summer’s eve, they … use the leftover basil to settle their tummies and soothe their mosquito bites. Wink. The end.

How do you use basil?

© Copyright 2011, Laura J. Rongé, Ciel Bleu Media, healthiveg.com.  All rights reserved.

Disclaimer—The articles here are not intended as medical, nutritional, or other professional advice.  The ideas presented are my own, unless otherwise noted, and are for informational purposes only.  Please use this information with discretion.
 

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20 Responses to Basil, Bliss, and Bug Bites

  1. Eva @ Four Leaf Clover says:

    At the beginning of this post, you’d convinced me that you’d been to Italy! Hah.. You’ve convinced me that I’m neglecting basil and need to get much more of it into my diet. I used to have one on the windowsill, but since it died.. it just isn’t the same buying bits of it from the store.

    • Laura says:

      Haha, it really does take me to Italy, you know. 😉 And definitely plant some more basil seeds, in a pot on the counter, a pot outside your door, anywhere that you can find sunshine. It grows very easily in warm weather, and you are so right that store-bought is just not the same. Thanks for your comment, Eva, and keep up the great work on your beautiful blog.

  2. evelyn says:

    Laura:

    Basil is one of my favorites, and you’re absolutely right, home grown IS best. I did buy a nice variety at a local farm that reminds me of Thai Basil but it’s not the same and I’m happy to say that my seeds have germinated. I don’t know which is which since there were a couple of different varieties sown together – I just love surprises!

    Peace,
    evelyn
    http://fromsproutstosupper.blogspot.com/

    • Laura says:

      Thanks, Evelyn, and good for you. I haven’t tried Thai Basil, but now that you mention it…. You can never have too much basil, and this warm weather is perfect for growing it. Peace and happy gardening!

  3. Janet says:

    Another home run here. Wait – do Italians play baseball? Anyway… Bravo! (Hope that’s Italian!!) 🙂

  4. WOW your basil is gorgeous!! I just simply love basil..the scent, the taste everything. Thanks so much for the tip for using it on bug bites. Do you have any luck keeping it going through the winter months? I always struggle with that – probably need to keep it somewhere warmer.

    New follower and I simply love your site!

    • Laura says:

      Aww, thanks, Jen! It does need hot, wet, sunny conditions, so you would have to replicate this in your house, or in a greenhouse. For me, basil is summer food, and I think missing it through the winter makes it even more delectable when it first appears in June each year. People do freeze it, but it loses something this way. I’d rather wait, anticipate, and then really appreciate the full summer flavor. <3

  5. Lorna Gray says:

    Hi Laura, I <3 basil and grow it on my balcony in Milan. Def going to try that guacamole (another favourite!) but I struggle to find nice avos here…that never stopped me tho'. The search for avos is ON! yum, thanks for a beautiful happy green fragrant post!

    • Laura says:

      ~A Milan balcony, such a perfect place for basil! I do hope you find the avocados soon and buon weekend, Lorna. Grazie! xo

  6. Stephanie says:

    Is that first pic your garden? Is it weird that I kind of want to sit in that patch of basil and just breathe it in? Beautiful…

    • Laura says:

      Thank you, Stephanie! Great to hear from you. Haha, no not weird at all. I love to bliss out in the basil (it takes a very long time to weed). 🙂 And yes, that picture is our garden, but a few years ago. The other pics are pots on our patio.

  7. sangeeta says:

    Reading this post reminded me that i am not using my basil enough. I have as much basil as you have Laura ( feeling so glad about this :)) and the reminder about the goodness of basil is great at this point of time .
    Thank you.

    And i use my basil for cold soups , raw chutneys and smoothies …going to use more of it now.

    • Laura says:

      Hi Sangeeta! I’m so glad you have lots of basil to use. I haven’t tried it in a smoothie, although I have heard of people mixing it with strawberry. What flavors do you combine? Enjoy it while it lasts!

  8. this is like a pesto mixed with guac! what a great idea! 🙂

  9. Kelly says:

    Mmm… love this basil guacamole – avocado & basil are two of my very favourites! What a beautiful blog and great post title 🙂

  10. Beautiful and informative. Being of the Italian variety myself, basil, like garlic, is one of my 2 main food groups… 🙂

    And once, when I was visiting my grandfather in Ridgeway, PA, he showed me how to feed crickets by hand using basil and bits of stale bread. I was mesmorized watching these chubby, black violinists, eating right from his hand. I went home and everytime my mother would ask me to go downstairs and catch the cricket she saw by the dryer, I would go catch it, put it in an aquarium for a couple days. I amassed quite a collection of crickets. And it was wonderful to not only watch them eat the basil and bread, but HEAR them. Yes, you could hear them crunching. And then at night, after their little Italian meal, they would take out their sweet violins and seranade me to sleep.

    Cheers, and thanks for sharing, Laura

    • Laura says:

      Thank you, Joseph! Grazie! What a beautiful story. I didn’t know that crickets like basil, too. I love to hear them chanting at night during basil season. An ode to basil, maybe?

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