Fresh basil leaves with vintage scissors on rustic dark wood background. Low key still life with directional natural lighting for effect.

Basil is an herb that is a member of the mint family. It is most commonly found in Italian dishes like bruschetta or pizza, and it’s the main ingredient in pesto. Basil is fragrantly sweet, with a slight tea-like scent.

Basil has a uniform green color and smooth, leaves that are about 2 inches long. However, there are many different types of basil, with varying colors and flavors, such as lemon basil, sweet basil, and Thai basil. Basil is really easy to grow here in Minnesota. I always get an abundance of fresh basil, with little effort.

To select good basil, choose deep green leaves without dark spots or yellowing. The best way to store basil is quite the debate. According to some studies, it keeps longer when stored loosely in plastic bag in a humid crisper drawer in the refrigerator, than it does storing it on the counter in a jar of water covered with a plastic bag. But other studies swear by the counter top method, so you may want to try both methods and see what works best for you.

So what about nutrition? Not only does basil add amazing flavor to your foods, it also has some great health benefits:

  • Basil is rich in vitamins A and K, as well as flavonoids that act like an anti-oxidant
  • Basil leaves contain some important minerals such as potassium, copper, magnesium, and iron
  • Basil leaves have essential oils that have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties

Whether you’re growing your own basil or purchasing it at the market, once you have a bunch of fresh basil leaves, why not make some fresh pesto?

Fresh Basil Pesto Recipe
Author: Jennifer M Wood, MS, RDN
  • 3 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1½ cups chopped walnuts or pine nuts
  • 3 garlic cloves, or to taste
  • ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • ¾ cup olive oil, adding more if needed
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Blend together the basil leaves, nuts, garlic and cheese in a food processor or blender until somewhat smooth.
  2. Slowly pour the oil in and continue processing until you reach a desired consistency.
  3. Add salt and pepper and process until blended.

Serve it in a pretty dish with some crusty bread or veggies, and there you have it…A Nutritious Dish…in a matter of minutes!