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 likes to call 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.
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.
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.
~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. La fine.
How do you use basil?
© Copyright 2011, Laura J. Rongé, Ciel Bleu Media, healthiveg.com. All rights reserved for all content on this site, including text and photos.
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.