There are over 60 varieties of basil, with the sweet kind being the most common. The ‘generic’ sweet basil has broad, green leaves and is the kind that is typically used in Italian cooking and for making pesto. Thai basil is another type of sweet basil that has narrow leaves with purple stems. Its flavor can withstand higher cooking temperatures and longer cooking times so it is better in soups and dishes with longer cooking requirements.
Many other types of basil all look slightly different in shape, and may offer a hint of flavors like lemon and cinnamon. These types are named after their flavor.
A Kitchen Staple
Basil in a dried format is one of the staple herbs in most kitchens. Some people would say it’s an essential! When inventing new recipes, basil is one of our favorite ingredients to use because even a little bit gives a lot of flavor. In fact, you can transform your scrambled eggs by adding dried or fresh basil to them. Your breakfast guests will surely ask you, “Wow, what did you add to these eggs?”
We also like to stock fresh basil as it can be added to salads, salsas, tomato sauces, stir fry and much more. To keep the fresh leaves from becoming stale and black, wrap the basil in slightly damp paper towel and store in the fridge.
Nutritional Profile and Health Benefits
Basil is low in calories, with only 5 calories per 1/2 cup serving. Although you wouldn’t use it as a stand alone salad ingredient, add a good portion of fresh basil to tomatoes, onions, fresh mozzarella, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and you will be in heaven!
Basil has many nutritional benefits. According to the rating system by The World’s Healthiest Foods, it is:
- An excellent source of vitamin K and manganese
- A very good source of copper, vitamin A (through carotenoids), and vitamin C
- A good source of iron, folate, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids
The flavonoids and oils contained in basil are responsible for giving it many health properties including:
Eugenol, which is a component of the essential oils in basil has been found to inhibit an enzyme, which may prevent and relieve inflammation. Anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen and Tylenol work the same way. There are several studies on the subject. If interested, please read one study recently published in 2014. As an anti-inflammatory food, basil may help relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel conditions.
Various oils in basil found effective in protecting against bacterial growth. Several studies have been conducted showing that basil essential oil may inhibit strains of pathogenic bacteria that has become resistant to antibiotic drugs. See one of the more recent 2013 studies by Sienkiewicz et al.
Through its flavonoids, basil may help maintain health at a basic DNA level by protecting cells and chromosomes from free radicals and oxidation. High concentrations of carotenoids and beta-carotene also help to fight free radicals and oxidation, leading to heart health, lower cholesterol, relief of asthma and osteoarthritis symptoms.
This month’s fabulous recipes featuring basil include our own Simple Pesto Sauce, along with Easy Mango Basil Sorbet and Grilled Spot Prawns with Finger Lime and Basil.
From Whole Foods Market:
No specialty ice cream machine needed for this recipe. You can also switch up the taste by adding mint along with the basil.
An easy recipe for hot, summer grilling days.
This is the season to buy potted basil plants that you can keep in your kitchen. Get inspired to invent your own recipe. With so many varieties, there are endless possibilities for great tasting basil dishes.