Basil is for More than Pesto!

Basil grows well in Southwest summers, and can be used for so much more than just pesto.  What, you wonder? Read on!


This post part my own, but mostly shared courtesy of Peg Riccio, who lives in the DC area.  Her website is called Pegplant – and is subheaded “Gardening News, Resources, and Plants in the VA, MD, and DC Area.”  This is the link to her full post – but fair warning – it is more about growing them in the DC area.  To learn about growing this luscious herb in the Southwest, read this post on Gardening With Soule.

Salad on a stick! Includes leaves of fresh basil.

Using Basil for Flavor

“I use lemon basil with fish and Thai basil with stir fried chicken and vegetables. Thai basil is often used in Asian cuisine because it keeps its flavor at high temperatures. Holy basil often is used in Indian cuisine and the sweet basil is often used in the Italian cuisine. There are so many cuisines that employ basil and so many recipes it is best to obtain an herbal cookbook.

This is from Uncle Smokey, our “meat-atarian.” Spread some mustard and then wrap your pork chops in basil and bacon before grilling.

“Sweet basil is just fine for pesto, but so are the other types.  That said, the spicy (Thai) types are good for honey and jellies.

“Usually a sweet basil such as Genovese is used in pasta, eggs, pesto, soups, salad, and vegetables, but you can try any type.  Sweet basil is good for butter.  I swirl small pieces into a stick of soft butter for use on breads and rolls. (This also makes a good hostess gift).

There are so many types and flavors of basil. Pictured here are lemon and opal varieties. Don’t stop with just one variety.

Baking with Basil

“Basil flavors cookies, pound cakes, and breads – including rolls, muffins, and flatbreads. I use the sweet for flatbreads and dinner rolls and the lemon, lime, or cinnamon for pound cakes. For a real conversation piece, sometimes I decorate a cake with basil flowers, which are edible. The actual flower is small and within the calyx so I have to pull the flower out from the calyx with tweezers. This takes time but is good for a special occasion when you want to “wow” folks.

This might be very tasty in the flatbread or Pan Plano we discussed earlier this year!

More fun with edible flowers! Tiny basil flowers can be used in cooking.

Infuse Flavor

We mentioned National Iced Tea Month earlier this June – you can use this tasty herb in tea as well as other liquids!

“Lemonade, cocktails, tea, and fruit juice pair well with basil. Try adding the spicy, cinnamon, lemon or lime flavored basils to these drinks for flavor or just make a cup of tea with basil leaves.

“The purple basils work well in vinegar or oil for color.  Use the scented basils such as cinnamon for flavor in either a vinegar, oil, or marinade.  I use the cinnamon variety, which has a purple tinge, in homemade vinegar and give it as a gift to my family.

Infuse the flavor and fragrance of basil into vinegar, tea, or sugar syrup.

“Basil can be used in sugar syrups for fruit salads, desserts, and drinks. This is especially good with cinnamon, lemon, or lime varieties. Make a sugar syrup by bringing to boil one cup of water and one cup of sugar with one cup of leaves and then simmer for 15 minutes. Drain through a colander to remove the leaves and let the syrup cool before using. Keep the syrup in a jar in the refrigerator to have on hand.  Even in the fridge it may go bad, so use it in a week or so!

“Another way to “wow” family and friends is to sprinkle strips or ribbons of lemon, lime, or cinnamon basil leaves on fruit salads and/or add the small flowers to the fruit salads (again pull the actual flower out with tweezers).  As mentioned before, coat fruit salads with the sugar syrups or intersperse a leaf with chunks of fruit on a fruit kebab.

To be fair, you can make pesto – but you do not need to use it over pasta. It is quite good with tomatoes!

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