Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is one of my favorite culinary herbs. It’s relatively easy to grow and is available in many cultivars, some of which are quite decorative. A member of the mint family, it’s a vigorous grower that may leave you wondering how to use it all. Here are my five favorite uses for this spicy herb.
- Dipping Oil – Chop finely and mix with other herbs such as thyme, oregano, minced garlic, and extra virgin olive oil. The ratios can be adjusted to suit your palette. It pairs nicely with fresh sourdough bread.
- Pizza Topping – Try adding torn basil leaves as a pizza topping.
- Caprese Salad – Nothing says summer like a Caprese salad. This combination of tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil is so simple yet delicious.
- Pesto – This green sauce usually consists of basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. If you find the basil flavor is too strong, try replacing half of the basil with spinach. You can also substitute walnuts or almonds for pine nuts. Visit the Basil and Pesto blog for a sample recipe with step-by-step instructions.
- Drying – If you have a large quantity of basil, drying is a good method for preserving it for use throughout the year. I typically dry enough to last until the next growing season. Consult HGIC 3086, Drying Herbs, Seeds, and Nuts for methods of drying herbs.
More information about growing basil, see HGIC 1327, Basil.