Basil – The tender leaf full of health

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Hello from all at the Newlina Eco-Gardens! Here we are in the full flush of Summer and the short season for Basil is over half way through. Many of you will have a few sprigs in your boxes and will already be aware of its use in Mediterranean cooking. Did you know that Basil comes from the same plant family as mint? You can see the similarity with its pointy aromatic leaves. Perhaps you are already aware of what an extremely healthy food Basil is. It has so many benefits it is hard to know where to start.
The anti-oxidant properties of the Vitamin A and Beta-Carotene, that it contains, stay in the basil best if you put it in at the end of cooking or use it raw.

Basil revives us eco-gardeners with instant aromatherapy at this busy time of year with its sweet green aroma. The aroma comes from the oils in basil, filling the air as the leaves transpire in the heat of the poly-tunnel. When visitors come to see us they love to just stand in the basil tunnel and breath in. These oils also contain some amazing anti-bacterial properties which have been proved to fight some bacteria that will not respond to antibiotics.

The Eugenol oil is also anti-inflammatory. It provides magnesium, good for the heart and circulation and flavonoids great for the immune system….

Basil has such a short season that we try to appreciate it as best we can with copious lashings of pesto whilst it lasts. As we pack the basil it also fills the packing area with its aroma. We have to handle it carefully as it bruises easily and keep it in a cool but not cold fridge. As a native of the Mediterranean, it loves the warm temperatures and drier conditions of the poly-tunnels and will not last long in the fridge if it is lower than about 6 degrees.

With the cool damp days that are so much a part of our Cornish summer, it will not survive out of the poly-tunnels. Its tender cells break down fast with cold and damp and go black. So keep it out of the cold fridge and use it fast or smother it in oil in tomato salads or pesto to preserve its greenness and flavour.

Remember the tender stalks can be cut finely and used as well as the leaves.

If you have some basil growing then remember to prune back regularly leaving the young growing points to prolong its life and don’t let its tender leaves feel the chill.

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