The pleasing perfume of basil

 | July 8, 2013

basil herbsBasil leaves boast many shades of green, and release perhaps the most pleasing smell you’ll encounter whilst indulging in the culinary arts. It’s a cherished ingredient in authentic Italian cooking and baking and in many other cuisines as well.

Basil isn’t the easiest herb to grow. Sure, you can get a pot filled with dirt and drop in a seed and water it every couple of days, but nourishing it to a bountiful harvest is what takes the most duty and care. Once it sprouts how can you be assured of a bountiful harvest? I started my seedlings indoors and moved them out at the end of May to start acclimatizing them to the normal cycles of sun and rain.

If you don’t have the time to tend to plants a good alternative is buying your supply from the local farmers’ market. Sun Peaks hosts a well supplied farmers’ market offering some of the finest produce our regional farms grow. In the peak of the season it’s likely that basil will be available by the pound if you’re keen enough to process this amazing super plant.

You’ll get the most value for your dollar buying by the pound as compared to going in for the five ounce portion of fresh basil in the supermarket that can take you for all you’ve got.

The best way to process basil, I’ve learned, is the by following this method: buy as much as you can and immediately begin processing when you return home.

Slice off the bottom stems cleanly and wrap the stems in wetted paper towel as you would with a fresh bouquet of flowers.

Gingerly place it in fridge making sure not to squish or crush the leaves.

Stand in the kitchen and think of all the wonderful things you will make with your fresh herbs.

Then make some of these recipes.

One of my favourites is maple-basil lemonade. Another is pizza marinara (tomato sauce, mozzarella, plus fresh basil on a crispy thin crust). And an Edam omelette garnished with a chiffonade of fresh basil makes a delicious breakfast main.

When you’ve made all you can think of with your pile of fresh basil, process the leaves with a 2:1 ratio of basil to parsley, olive oil, and season with lemon juice, crushed garlic, crushed red chili flakes and a bit of fresh

Parmesan to create a basil pesto that will keep in your fridge for up to a week. The pesto will also keep well into the winter months if you freeze it immediately.

The following recipe for Maple-Basil Lemonade will yield a delicious twist on a favourite summer drink.

Maple-Basil Lemonade

  • Make a simple syrup on the stovetop — that’s a 1:2 ratio of sugar to water boiled gently on the stove for 5 minutes.
  • Turn the burner off and submerge a decent handful of chopped basil into the near-boiling sugar syrup, let sit for five minutes then strain off the leaves. What you have left is a basil flavored simple-syrup.
  • Juice a handful of lemons and create a homemade lemonade that’s as tart or sweet as you please.
  • Lastly for a decidedly Canadian touch stir in a bit of your best maple syrup. Be careful not to make your maple-basil lemonade overpoweringly sweet. Its cold, tart taste with a bite of basil and a touch of maple can be the icing on your cake for a hot summer day.