The basil plant is a member of the mint family. Fresh basil has a strong heady flavour, which is similar to licorice and cloves. This summer herb is essential to Mediterranean dishes and is the key ingredient in traditional pesto.
Varieties: Sweet basil, which has green leaves, is the most common variety of basil sold in grocery stores. Occasionally, purple basil and Thai basil are available as well.
Additional varieties include lemon basil, cinnamon basil and anise basil, but they may not be available readily in mainstream grocery stores.
To prepare fresh basil, wash the leaves with cold water and gently pat dry. Remove the leaves from the stems and discard the stems. Tear the leaves with your fingers or use a ceramic knife to chop or slice into fine slivers. Using a ceramic knife will prevent the leaves from oxidizing and changing the flavour of this aromatic herb. A quick trick when cutting basil leaves is to stack them on top of each other and cut them into thin strips.
Tomatoes and basil are a delicious combination, so it’s no wonder that they are often paired together in salads, pasta dishes and pizza. To experience the incredible combination of fresh tomatoes and pungent basil, try making this light and healthy tomato basil soup or just slice a fresh tomato and sprinkle with fresh chopped basil.
You could even try grilling your tomatoes first!
According to the Canadian Nutrient File, the nutritional value per 25 leaves (12.5 g) of fresh basil using the daily recommended intake from Health Canada is: 65% of Vitamin K, 10% of Vitamin A, 10% of potassium, 4% of magnesium, 4% of potassium, and 3% of iron. It is also high in lutein, an antioxidant that is reported to be beneficial for maintaining good eyesight.