In this post, we will dive into the details of how to utilize basil, a prolific plant that can be grown easily in your kitchen. Let’s start!
What is basil?
Basil is an annual aromatic plant known for its captivating scent and its unique flavour in many cuisines. It is used abundantly especially in Mediterranian cuisine for sauces and toppings. It has many types which have different leaf colours or sizes. The leaf size shows a lot of variety, but the most commonly used basil type in the kitchens is the Italian basil. Its extra-broad leaves make it the perfect candidate for sauces, salads, and decoration.
How to store freshly cut basil
Whether you buy the basil from your local shop or you grow it yourself, you should store it in the fridge. If your basil has stalks, you can dip the stalks in a glass filled with water and store them in the fridge this way for a week. You shouldn’t forget to change the water in the glass once in a while. If you only have fresh basil leaves, you can store them in an air-tight container lined with kitchen paper for a week in your fridge.
How to use basil in the kitchen
The first and foremost use of your basil must be in making pesto sauce. It is an ancient Italian sauce that you can stir in pasta, spread onto sandwich bread, cover any meat or chicken dish, or drizzle on your salad. The pesto recipe gets its classic name from the Italian word ‘pestare’, which means ‘to crush or pound’. In the old days, you would pound the basil leaves with walnuts and garlic using a mortar and pestle. Nowadays it is easier to crush the ingredients with the help of an electric blender. I will give you a quick recipe below for making pesto sauce.
- 2 bunches of basil (100 gr of basil leaves)
- 150 gr of grated Parmesan cheese
- 4 tablespoons of pine nuts
- 200 ml of extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 2-3 piches of salt
- 1 teaspoon of black pepper
Wash the basil leaves and let them dry before starting. Cook the pine nuts on a pan without oil for 2-3 minutes to give them a crunchier texture, don’t forget to stir regularly. Put the nuts, spices, garlic and basil leaves into a blender, blend for 30 seconds. Then add the olive oil and the grated parmesan cheese on top gradually while you keep blending until the ingredients are uniformly mixed and crushed.
You can choose to blend it further to achieve a smoother texture or leave it more coarse according to your preference.
Note: You should store your pesto sauce in an air-tight jar or container. This way it will stay green and fresh for a longer period of time.
Other uses of basil in the kitchen
The recipes with which you can use basil are almost endless. You can use the freshly cut leaves in your salads (especially it is essential for Caprese salad), use them as topping for your pizza or as a finishing touch for your pasta, you can even use it to garnish your toast. You can also puree it to use in soups or blend it in other sauces. My favourite sauce which I use basil in regularly is the Napoletana sauce for pasta and meat dishes.
Basic tips on how to grow your own basil
I have some basic tips on the topic for the people who are new at gardening:
Before you start:
–It is a cold-sensitive plant. That’s why I recommend growing it in a pot inside the house. This way the temperature is not going to fluctuate as much as it does outdoors.
–They need space. Acquire a broad pot for planting your basil. You will have more space to sparsely distribute the basil seeds, and later the plants will enjoy the free space they can grow into.
–Start with a starter plant or a seedling rather than with seeds. It is much easier to start with an already grown plant than starting from the seeds if you want fast results and don’t know where to start. You can upgrade to growing basil from seeds after you get some experience.
–Sow the seeds sparsely, if you are going to grow the basil from seed. Sparsely spread the seeds onto a pot full of soil and cover up with a 1 cm thick layer of soil. Don’t push the soil down, this way the seedling will have the space to grow freely upwards. Spray the soil regularly and keep it moist until your seedlings show up.
How to take care of your plant:
–Sunshine is your friend. It thrives positioned in a sunny window. Make sure that it gets sunlight approximately for 6 hours daily. An east-facing windowsill is perfect, if possible, avoiding the midday sun. Otherwise, the leaves can get scorch marks.
–It loves water. Basil is a plant that requires its soil to be moist most of the time. You should water your plant at least once a day. Keep in mind that overwatering is also can cause problems if your seedlings are still small. Just keeping the soil moist but not actually wet and oozing would be the key. Make sure that its pot is well-drained.
–Cut the leaves just at the stem level. This way the leaves the plant produces will be abundant and it will create more stems in the long run.
–Pinch off the flowers when they come out, this way your plant will focus its energy to grow more leaves. However, if you want to collect new seeds from your plant and are okay with the fact that the leaf harvest will decrease, you can let the flowers stay and make seeds. Then you can collect and use them to grow more basil plants in the future.
Thank you for reading, happy cooking!
Let me know any other tips or questions you have in mind in the comments!