A non-profit organization dedicated to education with regard to the culture and use of herbs
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 MHS 2012-2013 Herb of the Year   
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MHS Herb
of the Year
- Basil

Making the Final Case for Growing Basil
From the September 2012 MHS Newsletter
By Bonnie Kulke

In case, the Herb Society has not made its case for growing and using basil in this year of Basil, here are more good reasons.

Medicinal Uses
Basil does have some medicinal qualities that we may not have covered in past articles or study groups. When you treat yourself to fresh basil with tomatoes or dried on pizza, you may also be treating yourself to important health benefits. There are chemical constituents that help calm your stomach and some researchers believe play a role in preventing cancer.

Preliminary research suggests that several compounds in basil seem to help disrupt the dangerous chain of events that can lead to the development of cancer. It’s still early for definite claims, but adding more basil to our diets seems like a good choice.

Drinking basil tea has been shown to help ease muscle spasms in the stomach that result in gas and digestive upset. Make a soothing cup of basil tea by pouring ó cup of boiling water over 1-2 teaspoons of dried basil. Allow it to steep for 15 minutes, strain and serve.

Harvesting and Storing Basil
Basil is one of the few foods that not only tastes good both fresh and dried, but maintains its nutritional benefits if harvested and stored properly.

As threats of killing frosts are predicted, those of us growing basil outside need to harvest as much as possible now. The general rule for harvesting is to do so mid-morning, after the dew has dried, but before the sun has not evaporated all oils from the leaves. Plan ahead so that when it is time to cut every last stem of basil down, you know what you will be doing to keep this harvest providing flavors for months to come.

Drying Basil
To dry basil, cut leaves carefully off the stems and lay in single layer on screen or paper towels, elevated on rack, in a warm, dry place out of direct sunlight. A spare bedroom or closet is better than an upstairs attic where the basil may dry fast but also lose the oils as the heat evaporates them along with the moisture.

Turn leaves every three days. You can expect basil to dry in 7-10 days but be sure it is dried to the point of crumbling or crackling. Store in a paper bag until the heat comes on in the house, then transfer dried basil to glass jars and keep out of light and in a cool, dry place.

Leaves should remain whole, and crushed as you use them, to preserve the most flavor. Be sure to label carefully, especially if you are drying several different types of basil. Don’t forget all the basils make wonderful teas by themselves or in combination with other herbs like mint or lemon herbs.

Preserving Fresh Basil
Preserve fresh basil flavor in butter that you can freeze. Soften one stick of butter and add one-half cup of chopped basil leaves, mix and shape into logs. Wrap each log in wax paper and place in plastic freezer bags within your freezer. This winter, you will be able to cut off slices to add to vegetables or breads, or add to your sauté pan for just-picked flavor.

You probably can’t make too much pesto for yourself and for gifts. Use lemon basil for a completely different flavor, too. Pesto freezes wonderfully within plastic mini storage cups to keep each batch separate and attractive. This method of storage is great for gifts and much preferred to freezing in ice cube trays and tossing pesto cubes into a plastic bag for holding flavors and avoiding freezer burn.
Here are several recipes to try just in time for those last harvested basil leaves:

Scented Basil Jelly
1 1/2 cups packed fresh basil (choose either lemon, cinnamon, anise or opal)
2 cups water
2 T. rice vinegar
Pinch of salt
3 1/2 cups sugar
3 oz. liquid pectin

Wash and dry the basil variety of your choosing. Tightly pack leaves in measuring cup, then tear leaves and add to the 2 cups water. Bring quickly to a boil, remove from heat, cover and steep for 15 minutes.

Strain 1 1/2 cups basil liquid into another saucepan. Add vinegar, salt and sugar. Bring to a hard boil, stirring constantly. Add the pectin and return to a hard boil that can’t be stirred down and boil for exactly one minute.

Remove from heat. Skim off foam, if desired, and pour hot jelly into hot sterilized jelly jars with one-half inch headspace and seal with two-piece lids.
Makes 4 (8 oz.) jars. Delicious with cream cheese on crackers or bagels.

Sweet Basils, Rose and Lavender Potpourri
1 qt. sweet basil leaves and flowering spikes
2 cups opal basil leaves
2 cups opal basil flowering spikes
2 cups lemon basil or tiny bush basil leaves
2 cups rose petals and buds
2 cups rose geranium leaves
1 cup lavender blossoms
1 oz. orrisroot

Combine all dry ingredients with orrisroot and store in large cookie tin till fragrances blend. Package the potpourri for gifts or display in lovely glass bowl in bath, entryway or bedroom.

Garden Companions of Basil

Watering and Harvesting Basil

Cooking with Basil

Making the Final Case for Growing Basil



2011 - Mint
Labiatae (aka Lamiaceae)

2010 - Dill
Anethem graveolens

2009 - Bay Laurel
Laurus nobilus

2008 - Scented Geraniums and Edible Flowers
Scented Geraniums - Pelargonium

2007 - Herbs de Provence
Herbs de Provence
Lavender - In Your Kitchen and Throughout Your Home

2006 - Rosemary
For centuries, rosemary has been used as a symbol of friendship, love, loyalty, and remembrance.

2005 - Oregano/Marjoram
There are 36 different species of Origonum, which includes many fragrant and ornamental herbs.

2004 - Lemon Herbs
For the 2004 Madison Herb Society Herb of the Year, we’re revisiting Lemon Herbs. There are many and they come from a variety of herb families.

 2003 - The Alliums
The Alliums - an Introduction - learn the basics of edible alliums Onions, Onions, Onions - Culiinary uses for and growing onions.
Garlic - a culinary favorite, growing and harvesting garlic
Chives - an overview of this tastyherb

2002 Herb of the Year - Dill
Dill - Anethum graveolens
(a-ne thum gra ve o lenz) - is a member of the carrot (Umbellelliferae or Apiaceae) family that also includes parsley, fennel, and caraway.