The Benefits of Basil

Touted today as an antibacterial superfood basil has been coveted for thousand of years.This antioxidant-and vitamin-rich herb helps restore microbial balance in the gut and battles disease-causing bacteria.invaluable in treating skin conditions such as acne and rosacea.it also has been used traditionally to combat symptoms of colds and flu.The oil ,a natural disinfectant.can be used to make household cleaners,and the plants deter flies,in addition-and quite notably-basil adds a wealth of flavor to recipes and bountiful beauty to the landscape.

The most common basil varietes are sweet basil(Ocimum basilicum – known for its consistent growth habit and smooth leaves) and holy basil (Ocimum sanctum0 known as Indian Tulsi).Also prized is the traditional italian variety,Genovese basil(Ocimum basilicum ‘Genovese’); bush basil (Ocimum basilicum var.minimum or Greek basil is a favorite for contaners and borders,Less traditional are the purple basils,which add variety in leaf and flower color in the garden but maintain similar flavor to many of their green counterparts.
But these only scratch the surface in the world of basil.One seed supplier specializing in basils lists more than 50 varieties.From Indian,Greek,African,Thai and Persian basils to citrus,choosing just one is no easy task.And when they range in growth havit from 6 inches up to 2 or 3 feet.adding diversity to the herb garden with basil may seem a tad daunting.Assuredly,basil is worth the effort.To enjoy its bounty you need only commit to a bit of experimentation.Not only will your flavor palate find multiple favorites but your landscape design may as well.

Full of Vitamins and Antioxidants,this popular culinary herb can help you keep a healthy gut,treat skin conditions and even clean your home.

In the Garden

As a whole,basils need evenly moist,well-drained soil and plenty of sunshine.Native to semi-tropical and tropical regions,basil plants are cold-sensitive,so if a danger of frost exists for your garden,you’ll need to cover them.Or,if you plant basil in a movable container to begin with,you can move the entire unit indoors in cold weather or simply to prolong the harvest.
If you have ideal soil and warm air and soil temperatures,sow seeds directly in the ground in early spring in cooler eliminates,give basil a strong start by starting seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the end of regular frost season.Transition plants gently,moving plants outdoors during the least extreme weather conditions while they are still in pots.Avoid leaving them out in excessive heat,wind,moisture or low overnight temperatures,and check plants regularly for signs of stress from outdoor elements.When you’re ready to plant basil in the garden,make sure it has plenty of room to breather,Basils appreciate air circulation,and although they like evenly moist soil,they like evenly moist soil,they don’t react well to wet leaves,a common problem with sited too close to other plants.

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Encourage fuller plants with plenty of leaves by clipping or pinching off flower spikes at the first sign of them.Additionally,promote healthy basil plants by watering the soil directly rather that watering the leaves.Keep an eye out for pests and signs of disease.and do your best to eradicate quckly,or remove infected plants and soil.

Kitchen Basics

Basil leaves bruise easily,so when appearance matters,simply tear leaves into small pieces or snip with kitchen shears.For a bright flavor,add chopped/snipped basil to fruit and vegetable salads or stop grilled meats.Mix fresh basil leaves with vinegar for dressings and dips,or blend a few handfuls with olive oil for delightful fresh pesto for pasta.(Refrigerate and use to pesto within 5 to 7 days,discarding of any signs of mold or fermentation arise.)

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FRESH VS. DRIED

If you have access to fresh basil,it is generally ideal.in some recipes dried may be substituted for fresh or vice versa,but use it at a ratio of 1 part dried to 3 parts fresh,and modify as needed to suit your taste.It’s also a good practice to test dried basil before adding it to recipes by crushing a few leaves to smell and taste,as time on the shelf can greatly diminish flavor.

Harvesting Basil

Always snip rather than pull leaves from plants.Following this little rule will encourage stems to heal and plants to contunue producing throughout their growing season.Keep basil fresh after harvest by clipping in the cool of evening and store with the ends in a jar of cool water.Make every attempt to keep leaves dry to prevent them from discoloration.Although the flavor will be equal.part of the fun of fresh basil is that bright.fresh color.Alternatively,wash and gently pat leaves dry with  paper towels.Then layer them between dry paper towels and store in a container in the warmest part of your refrigerator.using withing a couple of days.

Air dry clean basil leaves in hanging bunches out of sunlight,or if you lack the time or space,simply spread leaves on a baking sheet in a 150 to 200 degree F.oven until crisp but not over dried.Once dry,leaves should not be brown or black.Store whole leaves in a clean container away leaves in a clean container away from heat and light for up to one year.Check often to ensure no signs of moisture or mold exist

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