This is my first year cultivating an herb garden! Mind you, it is a super small scale herb garden, but I am so excited to have fresh herbs to add to my dishes.
I have various kinds of herbs in my garden, but today I want to highlight basil. I have THREE types of basil in my garden right now: sweet basil, Thai basil and purple basil.
Arguably the most popular form of basil, sweet basil is well known for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties–making this herb perfect for anti-aging and decreasing chances of chronic diseases. This flavorful herb is used in many different cuisines but primarily known for Italian cooking such as pesto, bruschetta, caprese and various pasta dishes.
Sweet basil is rich in vitamin A (eye + skin health), vitamin K (healthy gut microbe), vitamin C (antioxidant + wound healing + immunity), magnesium (aids in metabolism), iron (transports oxygen), potassium (aids blood pressure), and calcium (cardiac function + blood clotting + strong bones). Adding a few fresh leaves of basil to your dishes will not only add freshness but will also boost the nutritional content of your meal.
Have you ever gone to a Thai restaurant and ordered a “Basilia” dish? You might be eating Thai Basil! Just like the name states, Thai Basil is an herb used in most Southeast Asia cuisines–especially Thai. Infused in many curries, sauteed with meats and veggies, or simply used for a garnish, Thai Basil is mildly sweet with a little more of a bitter, licorice-like bold flavor than sweet basil. In most recipes, Thai Basil can be substituted for sweet basil, making them interchangeable.
The nutrition profile of Thai Basil is similar to that of sweet basil being rich in vitamin A (eye + skin health) and vitamin C (antioxidant + wound healing + immunity) as well as vitamin E (antioxidant + skin health).
In all honesty, I had never heard of purple basil until I planted it in my garden! The deep, rich purple color is a nice accent to my other herbs, and it smells divine–quite similar to other basil family members. While there are similarities of this herb to other basil plants, this herb is more earthy, less sweet, and comparable to the flavor of cloves. Purple basil is primarily used for infusing oils and vinegar as well as garnishing dishes.
This herb is nutritionally comparable to other basil, meaning it is high in anti-aging and anti-cancer properties. In general, purple plants are high in anthocyanins, which are antioxidants that may offer anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-cancer benefits.
Incorporating basil into diet ideas:
- make your own homemade basil pesto (traditionally made with olive oil +pine nuts + basil)
- toss with other mixed greens + veggies for a salad
- homemade salad dressing using fresh or dried basil
- saute with veggies
- add to pasta dishes
- top fresh pizza
- caprese salad with mozzarella balls + fresh basil + grape tomatoes all tossed in olive oil
- combine with watermelon + feta for a refreshing summer salad
- make a panini with fresh basil + mozzarella + tomato
- freshen your water with basil + lemon
- infuse olive oil with purple basil for a strong, aromatic flavor
As summer approaches and my garden starts producing large quantities of herbs, I will share some of my favorite recipes and harvesting hacks–this is all new to me, so I will be learning along the way! If you have any harvesting tips or tricks for me, comment below or contact me here.
What is your favorite way to use basil?
Until Next Time,
Katrina Detter, RD, LDN
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Karen Gill, M. (2019). Basil: Uses, benefits and nutrition. [online] Medical News Today. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266425.php [Accessed 1 May 2019].
Anon, (2019). [online] Available at: https://www.nutriliving.com/foods/thai-basil [Accessed 1 May 2019].
I Love Gardening. (2019). All About Purple Basil. [online] Available at: https://www.igardenplanting.com/all-about-purple-basil/ [Accessed 1 May 2019].