Basil (Ocimum basilicum)



On June 21st, it's official! Summer is here again!

 

When I think of summer, I think of all the varieties of basil and the way they add complexity to just about any recipe! In fact, I can never grow enough basil to supply my demand for it, although I plan to try again this year!

Did you know there are over 60 varieties of basil? Well, the number varies depending on what you read, but this estimate appears to be a good average. The first written record of basil dates back to Egypt, but it is believed to have come from India, which seems strange to me. I think of basil more as a Mediterranean herb. However, holy basil, also known as Tulsi is an Indian herb used medicinally as a tea. You can easily find it in health food stores these days. Thai basil is used extensively in Thai and Vietnamese food.  There are basils with hints of everything from lemon to jasmine to cinnamon. 

Basil is not only delicious but beneficial to plants and people! Basil is believed to be a great companion plant to tomatoes, asparagus, peppers, oregano, beets, and more. Basil attracts beneficial insects and repels bad bugs. 

Basil is also good for people, in that it has high amounts of vitamins K, A, and C, as well as minerals and a host of phytonutrients that provide antioxidant, anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. All this for only 6 calories per cup!

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology discovered  that an anti-inflammatory compound, (E)-beta-caryophyllene (BCP) is abundant in basil.  They suggested that this powerful anti-inflammatory agent could be effective in treating diseases in which inflammation plays a key role, such as arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.

So, it's all right to be generous with basil in your summer dishes!

© Bobbi Mullins 2011, All rights reserved. FOOD FITNESS FAITH™