31 Jul

All Hail the Holy Basil

Hello Sustainable Choices readers!
My name is Jessamy and I’m excited to be guest blogging here today. Many thanks to Marla for the opportunity to stop by and chat a little bit with her followers. Last week I made an impromptu stop to visit her one afternoon. As she took me on tour of the various things she was growing I was particularly captivated with something I found in her herb garden. Basil! Yes, she had your usual big-leaved sweet basil, but it didn’t stop there. I found a handful of varieties I’d heard of though never experienced before. So, it got my wheels turning about these new-to-me varieties and after a week of messing around with them in the kitchen I thought I’d like to share my thoughts and discoveries.

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Basil, part of the Lamiaceae family, is believed to originate from central Africa and southeast Asia. There are numerous varieties and cultivars available for culinary and landscaping purposes. For most of us, we best know basil as applied to Mediterranean and Italian cuisine. It is part of the symphony of flavors in most of the pasta sauces we know and love. It is also a component of popular fare like bruschetta and Caprese salads. The flavors supplied to these dishes typically come from a sweet basil such as Genovese or Lettuce Leaf.

Upon my last visit to Mahantango Creek Farm, I was pleasantly surprised with the opportunity to see and sample a variety of basils I’d never seen before. These included, cinnamon, holy and lemon basil. After experiencing other cultivars of basil it was clear that we can use these to step outside the box and take advantage of a new range of flavors and applications.

First let’s take a look at cinnamon basil. This type of basil is a beautiful addition to your garden if only for its beauty. With deep purple stems, lush green leaves, topped with purple spires and lavender blooms the landscaping value is clear. However, aesthetics is not all this plant has to offer. This cultivar contains methyl cinnamate, the same property that gives the cinnamon we often associate with baked goods its scent and distinct flavor. Ramona Werst, of Love Your Basil, shares a recipe for an icebox cookie that uses cinnamon basil which sounds like a real treat! The recipe can be found here: http://www.motherearthliving.com/in-the-garden/love-your-basil-cinnamon-basil.aspx#axzz3948Zn1i4
Consider also, some sources report that cinnamon basil deters mosquitoes. Try rubbing the leaves on your skin or growing the plant in areas where you often spend time outdoors in the summer months.Jerseys Cheap
I have also read that cinnamon basil can be soothing to several health issues including gastro-intestinal trouble, joint pain, and respiratory problems such as colds or allergies. For this reason, I chose to dry a large bundle for future medicinal tea making.
Next, we’ll examine Tulsi or “Holy” basil. This plant is a very important part of Hindu culture and as such is commonly grown in places like India, where it is native. This particular cultivar has a clove scent to it and a darker green hue and matte appearance to the leaves than Genovese. This type of basil is widely regarded for its health-promoting properties. In fact, Organic India actually carries a Tulsi tea variety that can often be found at health food stores. This is a wonderful herb to dry and keep on hand for medicinal tea making. It is alleged to be very useful in treating colds and the flu.

Finally, a look at lemon basil. This variety of basil is a very bright, light green color and matures to have pale, white flowers in spires. Brush against it and you’ll release a magnificent lemony scent. The scent of this plant is so clean and fresh you may want to bring it inside your home. Snip some long cuttings from the plant to tuck amongst flowers from your garden for a lovely bouquet, or gather a large bunch of basil alone to place in a vase on your  counter top. Warning: your kitchen may feel cleaner than it is thanks to the brilliant scent released.
Personally, I’m very taken with this variety of basil at the moment and have been experimenting with culinary uses for it. So far my favorite use is the recipe that follows which I came up with last night.

Summer Vegetables in Lemon Basil Cream Sauce

2-3 cloves garlic
1 large red onion, chopped
2 small to medium zucchini or summer squash, sliced
2 cups fresh broccoli florets
1 + 4 Tblsp butter
3 ounces cream cheese cut into cubes
3 Tblsp milk
salt & pepper
1/2 lb angel hair pasta
1/4 cup lemon basil leaves, thinly sliced into ribbons
Peel and finely chop garlic, allow to rest 10 minutes (to activate aliinase enzyme and associated health benefits).  Meanwhile boil water to prepare your pasta according to package directions.
Melt 1 Tblsp butter in a large skillet, add garlic and onion, cook 3-4 minutes stirring occasionally until softened. Add zucchini and broccoli, cook 5 minutes or so stirring occasionally until softened. Season with sprinkling of salt and pepper. Add remaining butter and cream cheese to pan, stir to incorporate as they melt. Once melted, add milk and stir. Turn heat to lowest setting and put a lid on the pan allowing all the ingredients to simmer and melt together another minute or so. Remove lid and sprinkle in half of the lemon basil, stir to incorporate with vegetables and sauce.
Serve immediately atop a bed of the angel hair pasta and sprinkled with additional lemon basil.
All of these basils and other herb varieties can be found at Mahantango Creek Farms. Consider picking up a bundle with your next Sustainable Choices order and experience some new flavors!

6 thoughts on “All Hail the Holy Basil

  1. Summer Vegetables in Lemon Basil Cream Sauce…sounds yummy,going to try it tonight for dinner.Great blog Jessamy!!

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