Anytime is a great time to add basil to your recipes! Fresh from the garden, or indoor garden, paired with tomatoes or other produce, basil adds a great burst of flavor.
The highly fragrant herb is related to peppermint and comes in many varieties to give added depth and options to your recipes. Basil plants are generally green, however some varieties are purple. Basil plants such as lemon basil, anise basil, clove basil and cinnamon basil have unique flavors that are suggested by their namesake.
Fresh basil is used in many recipes and is generally added toward the end of the cooking process. Most of the time basil is added at the last minute as cooking it too long tends to dilute the flavor. Many people are already familiar with basil as the main flavor ingredient in pesto – along with olive oil, garlic, and pine nuts. Yet the possibilities for adding basil to your recipes is nearly endless.
Basil is best when used fresh from your kitchen garden, although fresh cut basil can be kept in the refrigerator. To store basil, wrap it in damp paper towels and place in a plastic bag and put it in the refrigerator. This will keep fresh basil for about four days. Or you can place the basil, stem down, in a glass of water with a plastic cover. This will keep the basil for about a week if you change the water on a regular basis. For longer term storage, basil can be blanched quickly in boiling water and kept in the freezer. Although when dried, basil loses much of its flavor, and the taste may be significantly different. Dried basil can be kept in a cool, dark place for up to six months.
Healthy Benefits of Basil
A study by Purdue University showed that basil is rich in antioxidants, has anti-aging properties and can help to reduce inflammation and swelling. Basil is rich in vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, potassium, and calcium.
Below are 24 of of our favorite basil recipes found around the web.
After working, taking care of kids, and running errands, the last thing almost anyone wants to do is figure out what is for dinner. Instead of spending more money on unhealthy food, have a few easy and healthy go-to weekday dinner plans. Cooking does not have to be difficult, and summer is just around the corner. It is time for farmers markets, fresh tomatoes, and basil in your garden. Enjoy your summer dinners by using fresh herbs such as basil to make your meals easy, tasty, and nutritious. Instead of having to hit the store every day, get fresh herbs straight from your garden. Below are three easy and healthy basil recipes.
1. Simple and Delicious Tomato and Basil Salad
Cooking does not get much easier than this. Note that it is important to use ripe tomatoes that are in season. The recipe can easily be adjusted to serve between two and several dozen people.
6 small servings of salad
Several ripe heirloom tomatoes
Several basil leaves, coarsely torn
Shortly before serving, slice the tomatoes and arrange them on a plate facing up. Lightly drizzle the olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the tomatoes. Top the tomatoes with the basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
2. Easy Pesto Sauce
Pesto sauce is a way to make spring and summer pasta dishes more festive. When stored in airtight containers, this sauce will last about 6 months in the freezer. Freezing sauce in individual containers is highly recommended as the sauce takes time to make and is better when made in larger quantities.
8 cups of sauce
2 cups fresh basil
4 garlic cloves
1 cup pine nuts
¾ cup olive oil
½ cup pecorino cheese, grated
2 ½ cups parmesan, grated
Boil basil leaves for 5 seconds or until wilted, drain, squeeze out excess liquid, and set aside. Blanche the garlic. Coarsely chop the basil. Place the basil, garlic, pine nuts, and olive oil in a large bowl. Use a hand mixer to blend into a coarse sauce. Stir in the cheeses, and season with salt to taste. Put extra sauce in small airtight containers for later use.
The easiest way to turn pesto sauce into a complete meal is to make quick pasta. By having extra sauces on hand, dinners can be as easy as boiling pasta water and reheating the sauce in a microwave or on the stovetop. Homemade sauces are quick and easy in addition to being cost-effective.
3. Shell Pasta With Creamy Basil Sauce
This recipe tastes very similar to a traditional Alfredo Sauce. By using yogurt instead of heavy cream, this pasta is healthier without sacrificing taste. The fresh basil and feta give this dish more interesting and subtle flavors along with a great, creamy texture. Eliminating the chili flakes can make this dish more kid-friendly. For people that like more of a kick, extra hot Syrian or Turkish chili flakes can make the dish even better.
2 cups plain Greek yogurt
2/3 cups olive oil + a few tbsp. extra
1 lb. bag frozen peas
1 lb. pasta
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 tsp. chili flakes (adjust to taste)
1 2/3 cups coarsely torn basil leaves
½ cup feta cheese
Salt and pepper
Place the Greek yogurt, olive oil, and ¼ cup of the peas into a food processor. Blend into a uniform sauce and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Cook the pasta according to the directions until al dente. Fry the chili flakes, pine nuts, and some of the peas in olive oil for about 4 minutes. Drain the pasta and shake well. Add the pasta gradually to the yogurt sauce while stirring constantly to avoid curdling. Note: adding the pasta all at once might cause the yogurt sauce to split. Immediately before serving, add the basil, and feta. Season with salt and pepper to taste. As a last step, pour the pine nuts and oil mixture over the top of the dish.
Have a better life by eating better food
One of the best ways to make healthy food taste better is to put in a little extra effort and add herbs such as basil instead of preservatives. Take advantage of summer produce that is readily available. Who knows? You might fool the guests at your next dinner party or potluck into thinking that you went to culinary school by understanding flavor profiles and cooking easy, delicious food with fresh herbs from your garden.
Whether you are a veteran chef or you are just learning how to cook, you are sure to benefit greatly by adding herbs to your list of favorite cooking ingredients. Foods that are cooked with herbs simply taste better. When first starting out on your culinary journey, it can be intimidating to look at the vast array of herbs available at the grocery store or farmer’s market and know what to do with them. It is best to do some research on different types of herbs and sure fire food combinations to use with them that have been tried and tested.
Some herbs are more common than others. For example, you may have heard of the herb thyme, but perhaps you have never heard of the herb marjoram. If you have a pre-packaged herb and spice rack in your kitchen with a little bottle labeled “marjoram”, you may have asked yourself the question, “What is marjoram and how can I use it?” Of course we always prefer fresh herbs, and you can purchase marjoram plants online directly from our store.
Marjoram plant with flower buds
What Is Marjoram Exactly?
Marjoram is an herb in the mint family that is commonly mistaken for oregano, although it has a milder flavor. Many say that it has a slight taste of citrus and sweet pine. It grows wild in Mediterranean countries such as Cyprus, Turkey, and Greece, and is a popular additive to their sauces, soups, and meat dishes. Because marjoram is a perennial, it can live for several years. However, it typically does not survive cold temperatures. If you decide to grow marjoram on your own, you may need to replant it in a pot during the colder months, depending on where you live. This herb prefers full exposure to the sun and is best planted in well-drained soil where it has room to spread.
How Can I Use Marjoram?
The herb marjoram is often used in body care products such as soaps, lotions, and shaving gel. It is sometimes made into an essential oil used in aromatherapy treatments because of its apparent ability to sooth one to sleep and reduce stress. Some other proposed benefits of Marjoram include its ability to relieve flatulence, nausea, cramps, and swelling.
Aside from marjoram’s health and beauty uses, it also has many culinary uses. Both fresh and dried leaves can be used to season foods with its mild, bittersweet taste. It is often included in the popular English dish of roast goose with chestnut stuffing and in German cooking as a part of a spice mixture added to sausage. In most recipes, you will see marjoram called for in combination with other herbs and spices such as oregano, basil, and parsley.
4 leeks, dark green parts trimmed, quartered lengthwise, sliced in ½ inch segments
3 cups cooked black-eyed peas
¼ – ½ teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 tablespoon olive oil
3-4 tablespoons butter
salt to taste
The night before, cover black-eyed peas with water and soak them for at least four hours. Drain, place in a large pot, and cover with about 3 inches of water. Simmer until the peas are cooked through, salting generously in the last ten minutes of cooking. While the peas are cooking, heat the olive oil over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large pan. When hot, add some salt and stir in the leeks. Cook gently, stirring frequently until the leeks appear golden. Add the peas to the skillet. Cook until heated through, and then stir in the marjoram, tarragon, some salt, and the remaining 2-3 tablespoons of butter.
2 1 1/4-pound gray snapper, whole porgy, or branzino, cleaned
8 sprigs fresh marjoram + 1 tablespoon marjoram leaves (dried marjoram can be used)
2 small oranges or tangerines, peeled, seeded, and separated into segments
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Prepare a charcoal grill or a gas grill to medium-high. Make 3 diagonal slices spaced about 1 1/2″ apart on each side of fish. Season fish with salt and pepper to taste. Stuff each fish with 4 herb sprigs and segments from 1/2 orange. Rub each fish with 1 tablespoon oil. Grill fish for 3-4 minutes, or until skin no longer sticks. Carefully turn fish and grill until cooked through, about 3-4 more minutes. Transfer to platters and garnish with remaining marjoram leaves and orange segments.
Using marjoram in health and beauty care or in cooking is a great way to explore this less-often used herb. As you try out other uses for marjoram in recipes and in everyday life, you are sure to be delighted by its unique aromatic properties.
We had a great time showing James all around the farm- we even sent him home with some potted herb souvenirs!
Last week, our good friend, James Farmer came up for a demonstration on garden to table living and while here, he stayed in the cottage on our farm. We had a wonderful time strolling through the test gardens, talking about his favorite culinary herbs for his infamous Southern recipes, and chatting about country life, gardening and everything in between!
Our newest herb kit, the James Farmer's Favorites Herb Collection was hand picked by James himself!
We introduced James to Holy Basil and taught him about its rich history and wonderful medicinal benefits.
When walking through the test gardens, we discussed the investment and versatility that perennial herbs lend. For example, I showed James that more than just a beautiful flower for the garden or in arrangements, Pyrethrum is a natural insect repellent and is used in many organic insecticides.
"Pyrethrum is beautiful in the garden or in arrangements, and is also a natural insect repellent used in many organic insecticides."
You can purchase James’s book, A Time To Plant: Southern-Style Garden Living and get loads of design tips, recipes and more, AND six of his favorite culinary herbs to create endless concoctions and dishes when you buy the James Farmer’s Favorites Herb Collection and Book!
We had such a wonderful time with James on the farm, we can't wait until he comes for another visit!
We had a such a fantastic time with James and can’t wait for him to come back! For more information on James, or his newest release, Sip and Savor: Drinks For Party and Porch, please visit his website!
We are so excited that our good friend, James Farmer is coming to visit and stay at our farm this week! As part of Virginia’s Historic Garden Week, James is coming to visit and give us an exclusive demonstration on his garden to table arrangements as well as share some of his favorite food and drink recipes from his two books, A Time To Plant: Southern-Style Garden Living, and Sip and Savor, Drinks For Party and Porch, which was just released. James has a wonderful eye for design and has used his talents to bring gardening to a gourmet level. Throughout his elaborate table settings, stunning arrangements and in his Southern-chic food and drink recipes, James incorporates his passion for herb gardening for a refined but “down home” feel. As the most creative new personality in the garden living world, James still stays true to his Southern roots, drawing his inspiration from his family farm in Kathleen, Georgia.
James Farmers Favorites
To celebrate James’s visit to our farm and his fantastic new book, A Time To Plant, Southern Style Garden Living, we’ve created the James Farmer’s Favorites Herb Collection to offer some of his favorite herb plants! We’ve included Lavender ‘Hidcote’, for its beauty in arrangements or as a garnish, and for its wonderful fragrance and light, floral flavor in drinks and recipes. For a true Southern experience, we added ‘Kentucky Colonel’ Mint, a robust spearmint that grows effortlessly and is the key component to a real Southern tradition, the Mint Julep. ‘Lemon Sweet Dani’ Basil was chosen for its delicate citrus tones and lovely blooming spires, making it perfect for flavoring seafood, salads and garnishing summer desserts. To share a savory note, we also added our Rosemary ‘Arp’, a flavorful, cold hardy, Rosemary that seasons meats, stews and full flavored desserts. (James loves using the Rosemary twigs as skewers for adding fruit kebabs to his delectable drinks!) Rounding out his favorites, are ‘Italian Flat Leaf’ Parsley for its full body flavor and lovely leafy foliage, and ‘English’ Thyme, a classic culinary herb that grew in his grandmother’s kitchen garden and of which he has fond, flavorful memories.
If you may already have these wonderful culinary herbs in your garden, you can purchase A Time To Plant: Southern-Style Garden Living sold separately. Whether you treat yourself or give this as a thoughtful gift, the James Farmer’s Favorites will be a sure delight for entertaining in the garden and in your home!
Our Marketing Director, Caroline, proves that fresh herbs can make even the worst frozen dish, fantastic!
As a struggling cook with little more than the ambition to want more than take-out every night, cooking can be hard. Probably the biggest thing you need to factor in is the budget and how much you can spend each week. A lot of people use their american express preferred credit card when paying for groceries so they can get big rewards they can use later on to make things more affordable. Cooking something that you’re actually excited to put on your plate can sometimes be even harder, if you’re a frugal yet resourceful, 20-something year old, like myself. So how do you get the most punch for your palate, while on a budget? Dress up inexpensive, everyday foods using fresh culinary herbs.
Between my indoor winter herb garden and the dried or frozen herbs I preserved from last year’s garden, I’ve been getting creative in my kitchen. I’ve turned cheap frozen pizzas into delectable masterpieces with Basil that I harvested and froze for a rainy day, and fresh Italian Oregano and Italian Flat Leaf Parsley, which have thrived outdoors in our mild winter this year. I’ve created every soup imaginable from canned pantry items, frozen veggies and English Thyme, Cutting Celery and Curly Parsley from my garden. And, most recently, I even conquered breakfast by adding freshly dried Rosemary ‘Salem’ to my instant pancakes to create one of my newest favorite foods. (To see WHERE I got these fresh Rosemary ‘Salem’ clippings, check out our video of our herb expert, Briscoe, teaching you how to hard prune your woody perennials!)
And while I was busy experimenting with a lot of herbs from my garden, I came across this book which was suggested by one of my friends. The book is called ‘The Plant Paradox Cookbook’ and it gives about 100 recipes, all of which could be used to lose weight and heal the gut. It also talks about the health benefits of living lectin-free. If you’re interested to find more about this book, check gundry md.
Herbs offer a terrific way to really jazz up your culinary routine, or if you’re cooking on a budget like me, they add tons of flavor and lots of valuable vitamins and nutrients to otherwise bland food. Don’t forget that your herb garden is a valuable investment that offers many flavorful rewards, so try experimenting with your favorite dishes by incorporating fresh herbs into your next meal and take your culinary skills from “ramen” to “righteous”! Check out our Cook’s Exchange for more herbal recipes, or try the one below.
After watching a Top Chef marathon and deciding it was time for brunch this past weekend, I tried my hand at some VERY creative pancake combinations. Luckily, a few of them were worth eating, so here’s one to try:
Just follow the follow the directions for the desired amount of pancakes, on the back of the box,and mix the batter until there are no lumps.
Add oil to your frying pan on medium-hot heat.
Wash, dry and crush or chop the fresh Rosemary.
Pour pancakes to desired size in your frying pan, and top with a generous sprinkle of Rosemary. (I was also making Andes Mint pancakes during this experiment, and some of the chocolate get mixed in with the Rosemary. It tasted terrific together, so for a sweeter pancake, try adding a little chocolate and Mint to compliment the Rosemary.)
Cook til golden brown on both sides and eat until you’re full!
We believe in a greener way of living. Hopefully the posts here on The Herb Exchange Blog will help you with knowledge of herbs, gardening, recipes and a healthy life.
The Growers Exchange is committed to a greener way of growing and has been for over 30 years. We deliver healthy, farm-fresh herb plants ready to be planted. We deliver your plants at the correct time for your shipping zone in the spring and fall.
The Growers Exchange is where gardeners go to grow since 1985.