By: Suzanne Brett, RHN – Victoria, BC
Herbage! This might be the first time that I write about an herb as the food of the month, but it likely won‘t be the last. This is your lucky month, because every time I write about herbs I get happy and that means the article reads happy. Herbs are such amazing nutrient boosters and so, so essential for providing health promoting properties and preventing disease.
This summer, for some amazing reason, my basil was shooting up into the sky very early in the summer. Although, for most, NOW is the time for basil; after it’s absorbed so much of the summer sun. As I walk through and past all the gardens in Victoria, I’m noticing more and more basil in September.
So, for those of you who have basil flourishing in your gardens currently and aren’t using it, here’s why you should start today… and for those of you without basil or any other herbs, I strongly recommend you consider planting some for next year and borrow some from your neighbour this year.
1. Basil is used throughout the Mediterranean and Asia in many of our favorite dishes. It compliments both the spicy Asian foods and the rich Italian foods really well. It has a fragrant and full flavour that is very versatile. It’s what makes cooking a simple dinner easy. Just add basil, good quality oil, garlic and you’re rockin’!
2. It provides a very large amount of Vitamin K. What is Vitamin K for, you ask? Well, many qualities come to mind, although most importantly; research shows that in some cases Vitamin K is proven to be even more beneficial than Vitamin D is in cancer prevention. Particularly for protecting our cells from free-radical damage due to chemical exposure, pollution, radiation and poor quality foods among many other things.
3. Basil is also high in Magnesium, a mineral essential in cardiovascular care and maintenance. It’s part of the reason our hearts beat normally, providing oxygenated clean blood into the rest of our systems and producing energy. That’s pretty crucial, is it not?
4. It is also quite high in Vitamin A (beta-carotene) which is a powerful antioxidant, therefore adding an extra benefit to basil for cancer protection, more specifically, cellular tissue; the precious protective lining around all of our mighty special cells.
5. Among all of these essential nutrients that basil provides, it also contains an array of spectacular healing benefits. Basil contains anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Therefore it can help in the event that you’re suffering from any inflammatory conditions, allergies, arthritis, stress disorders and then also bacterial infections, due to parasites, the flu, gut imbalances and skin conditions.
The easiest way to consume basil is by breaking it up with your fingers over a dish after it’s been plated. Not only is this the easiest way, it’s also one of the best ways of preserving all of those powerful and health promoting properties, by not cutting them away into the cutting board.
The next best way, is to make a big jar of pesto, and keep it in the fridge or freezer for adding that quick flavor punch to any meal.
Eaten raw – mixed in with your salad greens, sprinkled on dishes, in a pesto, salad dressing etc. – is the best way of preserving these nutrients and properties that are oh- so-valuable. Another way is by cooking it into dishes in the last 5 minutes. Stir-fry’s, pastas, fish, meat and baked casseroles, vegetables etc.
Here’s my pesto recipe for you to try!
Basic Basil Pesto
- 3-4 cups (packed) fresh basil
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 cup pine nuts (almonds,walnuts or pumpkin seeds may be substituted)
- 5 cloves garlic (if using to cook or marinade) 3 cloves (if using raw, in a dressing or dip)
- 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor, until nuts are ground. Pesto should still have texture and not be completely smooth.
- Add more salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!
- For variety, you can add 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes