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Delicate leaves with an intense flavour and full-bodied aroma
Freshly picked and torn on a pizza – this is how we all love basil. The mild-tasting herb is best kept fresh at home. Whether as a fragrant garnish on a plate of pasta, or in rough quantities for an intense pesto, basil always provides inspiration with its distinctive aroma.
The basil plant prefers to be warm and pleasantly moist – and it’s no wonder, as the home of the popular aromatic herb is located in the tropical regions of Africa, Asia, and South America. Basil is also known as the ‘royal/kingly plant’; this stems from the Latin term ‘basilius’, which means ‘king’. Even just the scent of basil can be appetising, as its aroma is spicy and fresh, as well as sweet and nutty. Depending on the variety, the taste may include other nuances such as lemon, aniseed, or cinnamon.
The basil plant is often referred to as the royal herb; the variety that is most common in Europe is called sweet basil and is best known for its wide, thin, and delicate leaves. Even after the slightest touch, the basil plant releases its distinctive and intense scent. What most people don’t know is that there are in fact a number of different varieties of the popular herb, for example, there is a type that has bright purple-red leaves. Other popular varieties include:
|Ingredients||Linalool, Estragole, Eugenol, Eucalyptol|
|Season||July – September|
|Storage||in a glass of water in the refrigerator (freshly picked stems)|
|Shelf life||a few days, if stored correctly (freshly picked stems)|
Fresh basil can be used to refine and enhance just about every dish. Basil goes particularly well with tomatoes. Whether as a caprese salad with mozzarella and olive oil, as a bruschetta topping, or garnishing pasta; basil and its unique aroma makes a subtle but superb difference to any dish it is added to.
It is best to add the delicate basil leaves to a dish right near the end of preparation because the longer it is cooked, the quicker it loses its special aroma. It also looks most appetising when fresh and crisp. Thanks to its mild and subtle flavour, it is almost impossible to use too much basil. In case you don’t have the energy for chopping it finely, simply keep the leaves whole or tear them roughly apart with your fingers.
For more inspiration on how to use basil in the kitchen, consider the following ideas:
Basil grows in Switzerland from July to September. However, you can find it year-round in the fresh food aisle, so you can always have a good supply of basil at home. When shopping for basil, make sure that the leaves are healthy and fresh looking and without dry or withered spots – this also applies to the stems. If you opt for a basil plant over a bunch of basil, place the pot in a bright place and keep the soil moist all over; then you can harvest some every day. When harvesting, make sure to cut off a large part of the stem so that the plant can grow back strongly.
Basil tastes best when fresh, but if you want to preserve it, you have two options:
In order to dry basil, you need to gather it in a bunch and hang it to dry. When fully dried, finely chop the leaves and store them in an airtight container. The dried basil can then be used as seasoning in a variety of dishes.
The other option is to freeze the basil leaves. For this, the basil should be prepared into a paste: simply puree the leaves with olive oil. They can then be frozen in ice trays so that you can easily add a few cubes to your dishes.
Another option for freezing basil is to freeze the leaves whole. If doing this, make sure the leaves remain loose and somewhat separate in the container so that they don’t stick together. Frozen basil is only suitable for cooking, as it loses its decorative qualities on pizza’s and the like.
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