Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is an aromatic plant grown and used worldwide for its culinary, medicinal, and aromatic properties. Rich in vitamin K and calcium, basil has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties. Basil ( Ocimum basilicum ) is a vitamin K and calcium plant with significant anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
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Basil Plant And Origin
Basil ( Ocimum basilicum ) is an aromatic plant of the Lamiaceae family, which also includes oregano and thyme. It is a plant native to Asia. Still, it is grown worldwide for its unique scent and flavour. The bright green and oval-shaped leaves are the most used part of the kitchen. There are several varieties of basil, each with a slightly different flavour. Sweet basil is the most common and has a fresh and aromatic taste; often used in Mediterranean dishes and Italian cuisine, such as sauces, salads, pesto, and tomato dishes.
Other Varieties Include
- Lemon basil;
- Purple basil;
- Thai basil
- Each with unique taste characteristics.
Basil is a plant that can also be quickly grown in pots; the soil in the pool should be kept constantly moist but not too soaked in water. For this reason, it should be watered every time the soil surface begins to dry out slightly.
What Does Basil Contain?
Basil is an aromatic plant rich in bioactive compounds; let’s see some of them together:
- Essential oils are responsible for the distinctive aroma and flavor of basil, the primary essential oil in basil is methyl eugenol, but it also contains eugenol, linalool, 1,8-cineole (eucalyptol), and other aromatic compounds.
- It is a source of antioxidants, including flavonoids such as quercetin, kaempferol, and apigenin.
- Essential vitamins, such as vitamin K, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids such as beta-carotene), vitamin C, and some B vitamins, such as riboflavin ( vitamin B2 ) and folic acid ( vitamin B9 ).
- Essential minerals include iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and manganese.
Nutritional Values And Calories
The nutritional values of basil are relatively low, as it is generally used as an aromatic herb in small quantities.
- 100g of basil provides about 49 kcal.
Let’s see below the nutritional values per 100g of fresh basil leaves:
- Carbohydrates: about 5.1 g
- Protein: about 3.1 g
- Fat: about 0.8 g
- Fibers: about 5.2 g
- Vitamin A (as beta-carotene): approximately 5275 IU
- Vitamin K: about 414.8 mcg
- Vitamin C: approximately 18 mg
- Vitamin B9 (folic acid): about 68 mcg
- Calcium: about 250 mg
- Iron: about 5.5 mg
- Magnesium: about 64 mg
- Potassium: about 295 mg
Properties Of Basil
In addition to the already mentioned antioxidant properties, basil also includes anti-inflammatory properties, the eugenol contained in basil can help reduce inflammation in the body, thanks to some essential oils capable of stimulating the correct functioning of the immune system. Basil also performs antimicrobial and antibacterial functions.
Some components of basil, such as linalool, may have calming and relaxing effects on the nervous system, helping to reduce stress and anxiety. Furthermore, some recent studies suggest that basil may also positively affect the cardiovascular system, helping to reduce blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels (the so-called “bad cholesterol”). To enjoy the properties of basil all year round, it is possible to freeze whole or chopped fresh basil leaves, place them in dry freezer bags and take them out when necessary.
Basil In Herbal Medicine
In herbal medicine, basil essential oil is used in numerous fields of application thanks to its multiple properties:
- Thanks to its bioactive compounds, it can help protect cells from oxidative stress, thus helping to maintain the organism’s overall health. In addition, its antimicrobial properties may help fight infections by harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi by boosting the immune system.
- Basil essential oil is also known for its positive effect on the nervous system, as it contains components such as linalool, which have calming and relaxing properties. This can be especially helpful for reducing stress, anxiety and promoting relaxation.
Dried basil is often used in herbal tea blends or infusions, giving it relaxing and slightly aromatic properties. Furthermore, dried basil can be used as an aromatic herb to prepare vegetable-based creams, ointments, and oils for massages. It can help provide a relaxing and soothing scent and may be helpful in some skin care formulations due to its antimicrobial properties.
Basil In The Kitchen
Many sweet and savory recipes can be prepared with fresh basil, perfect for the hot season and capable of giving dishes an aromatic and refreshing note. From the classic Genoese pesto to sorbets with lemon and chopped basil, we passed through basil sauces to perfume meat or fish main courses up to sauces for cold pasta or to enrich tomato puree for pizza. Basil gives a unique flavor to many dishes of our Mediterranean tradition.
Recipes With Basil: Not Just Pesto
Ingredients For Three Portions
- Two zucchini
- One cucumber
- One generous handful of fresh basil leaves
- One and a half tablespoons of Greek yogurt
- Two tablespoons of cottage cheese
- One untreated lemon (zest)
- Oil, salt, and spices to taste
- Sauté the sliced courgettes in a pan with a drizzle of oil and cook.
- Once cooked, blend the zucchini with the cucumber and half of the basil leaves.
- Adjust the flavor with salt and spices to taste and let the cream cool.
- In the meantime, mix two tablespoons of ricotta with a tablespoon and a half of Greek yogurt, one tablespoon of hot water, the grated lemon zest, and another handful of finely chopped basil in a bowl.
- Serve the now lukewarm cream with the ricotta, yogurt, and basil mixture.
- Complete with a drizzle of raw oil and a sprinkling of black pepper if desired.
Cod With Basil And Lemon
Ingredients For Four Portions
- Four cod filets (about 150g each)
- One bunch of fresh basil
- Two lemons (juice and zest)
- Three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- Two minced garlic cloves
- Salt and Pepper To Taste
- In a bowl, prepare the marinade by mixing the juice of 1 lemon, the grated rind of both lemons, two tablespoons of olive oil, the minced garlic, some chopped basil leaves, salt, and pepper to taste.
- Lay the cod filets in the marinade, ensuring they are well covered. Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and leave it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (the longer they marinate, the more the fish will absorb the flavors).
- Preheat the oven to 200°C.
- Transfer the cod filets to a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
- Add a few fresh basil leaves on top of each filet.
- Place the fish in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the cod is cooked and flakes quickly with a fork.
- While cooking, you can add a little leftover marinade on top of the filets to keep them moist and intensify the flavor.
- Once cooked, serve the cod, adding a few more chopped fresh basil leaves and a few slices of lemon to decorate.