Summer is a great time for growing herbs. We’ve got them growing every which way we look! One of our favorite summertime herbs is basil. It has a very distinct taste—a little like licorice, or anise, and sometimes lemon, depending on the variety. It goes great with fresh summer tomatoes, makes a delicious pesto and adds a pop of flavor to countless veggie dishes. But did you know this herb also offers great nutrition? One half cup of fresh basil leaves is an excellent source of vitamin K to keep your circulatory system strong, and a good source of vitamin A for laser sharp eyes.
Basil is super easy to grow, either in the garden or in small planters inside on a window sill or outside. For planting outside, you can start with either seed or seedlings, and plant them in the late spring. Basil is ready for harvest now and throughout the summer. To keep your plants healthy, knowing how to harvest basil is priority #1. It’s important to pinch from the top of the plant so the plant’s stem becomes stronger and the plant becomes bushy and full rather than grow long with small leaves. Also, water often because basil loves to be hydrated.
Fresh basil has many uses. Alternate slices of tomato with basil leaves and fresh mozzarella for a homemade Caprese salad, or slice basil leaves into thin ribbons and mix in with grilled vegetables. Chopped basil is also a delicious addition to grain salads! And then there’s always the classic basil pesto. We make our own at HealthBarn USA, and it always gets thumbs up from kids and parents alike. Pesto is simple to make, versatile, and oh-so-yummy—what’s not to love?
From Appetite for Life, by Stacey Antine, MS RD
Basil is one of our favorite herbs to grow in the HealthBarn USA garden because it smells so good when we pick it for our favorite savory topping—pesto! This recipe is one of our most popular, and it’s also an excellent source of vitamin A. Serve this delicious pesto with pasta, use it as a spread instead of mayo on a sandwich or wrap, or use it as a topping for our Whole Wheat Pizza Dough.
Kids can place ingredients in food processor and blend.
4 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1⁄4 cup hulled raw sunflower seeds
2 cloves garlic
1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons low-sodium vegetable broth (or water)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- In a food processor or blender, pulse basil leaves, sunflower seeds, garlic, salt, and pepper until finely chopped.
- With food processor still running, gradually add broth and oil through feed tube to form a smooth, thick consistency.
- Transfer pesto to a medium bowl and fold in Parmesan. 4. Cover and refrigerate. Can be made up to 2 days ahead.
Makes 8 servings (2 tablespoons per serving)
Nutrition Facts per serving: 70 calories; 6g fat (1g sat fat, 3g mono, 1g poly, 0g trans fat); 0mg cholesterol; 2g carbohydrate (1g fiber, 0g sugar); 2g protein; 45mg sodium; 25% Daily Value (DV) vitamin A; 6% DV vitamin C; 6% DV calcium; 6% DV iron.
– Stacey Antine, MS, RD, author, Appetite for Life, founder, HealthBarn USA, co-host, Family Food Expert Internet Radio Show, and recognized as top 10 dietitians nationally by Today’s Dietitian magazine for her work with HealthBarn USA.