It’s gardening season, and that means lots of newbie gardeners (and plenty of veteran ones) will be testing their green thumbs by growing basil.
Basil matures quickly and can thrive in nearly any type of growing environment—pots, hangers or garden plots—if it has access to sun, water and soil you’ll soon be flush with basil. It’s basically the zucchini of herbs.
Because it’s so easy to grow (and hard to kill!) we plant copious amounts of basil in our garden every year, and every year, when it starts to give me those big, green leaves, I wonder what I can do with it besides make another batch of pesto.
The flavor of basil is quite unique, lending itself to many different edible applications. One Quora user described it as “extremely aromatic with a scent of pepper, anise, and mint. The taste is sweet, but savory, and just like the smell it is peppery yet ever so slightly minty.” Adding a pop of freshness to pasta and pizza is only the beginning of what fresh basil can do, however.
Let’s take a look at some remarkable properties of fresh basil and unusual ways to use its flavor and nutritional value in different areas of your life. Never let another basil leaf go to waste simply because you don’t know what to do with it!
1. Make Basil Tea
Out of your favorite herbal tea? No worries, basil is a delicious substitute. Chop fresh leaves and allow them to steep in hot water just like you would a dried tea. After the water is saturated with all that basily goodness, strain and sweeten with some honey before enjoying. This tea is especially helpful right before bed, as the smell of basil is believed to have a relaxing effect on the body.
2. Create Instant Sauté Cubes
Want an easy way to add fresh flavor to future meals? Chop up a bunch of fresh basil (other herbs work too!) and place it in the compartments of an ice cube tray. Fill the compartments with olive oil and freeze. Once completely solid, remove the oil cubes and seal inside an air-tight container. Keep them in the fridge, and any time you’re sautéing up a meal, use a cube in place of plain oil or butter. Instant deliciousness!
3. DIY Tonic For Upset Stomach
Basil is chock full of an anti-inflammatory called eugenol, which has the power to soothe upset stomachs naturally. Adding crushed up basil leaves to a glass of water can help to relieve indigestion and other gastrointestinal discomfort.
4. Lettuce Substitute
Want to enjoy a sandwich or salad for lunch but running low on your usual greens? Use some fresh basil leaves in their place! Basil leaves have the same crunch as lettuce or arugula while adding a zesty flavor that can’t be beat.
5. Soothe Insect Bites
“If you are working outside and get bitten or stung by an insect and don’t have any Plantain growing nearby, chewing up a basil leaf and applying to the bite will help relieve the pain and draw out the venom,” explains Wellness Mama.
6. Headache Reliever
An upset stomach isn’t the only thing basil can soothe. Some people have had success using fresh basil for the relief of headaches and even migraines as well. Tear several cups of basil leaves and place inside a large bowl, fill the bowl with steaming (not boiling!) hot water. Lean over the bowl until the steam is wafting directly up into your face. Place a towel over your head and shoulders to form a hood, and inhale the fragrant steam with deep, calm breaths. After five to ten minutes, your ache should start to subside.
7. Anti-Bacterial Cleaner
“Adding basil essential oil to your natural cleaning supplies (Sal-suds, Castile soap, vinegar etc.) or hand/body soap (Dr. Bronners) in a low concentration (1% or less*) can add natural anti bacterial (anti microbial) properties,” writes Care2′s Alisa Rutherford-Fortunati.
Combining fresh basil with citrus peels and white vinegar creates a highly concentrated household cleaner that’s completely toxin-free! Simply dilute by half with water when adding to a spray bottle. You’ll get all of vinegar’s cleaning power with less of the unpleasant odor!
8. Cough Suppressant
“I’ve heard several Amish in our area suggest using Basil leaf to help alleviate coughing and colds. They chew fresh leaves to calm coughing or make a calming tea of dried basil to help sooth illness,” explains Wellness Mama.
9. Amp Up Your Cocktails
Basil is a glorious way to take the flavor of summer cocktails to the next level. Consider adding torn basil leaves to your next martini, mojito or spritzer!