Certainly, you know of basil plant uses in the kitchen. From pesto sauce to the classic pairing of fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil (caprese), this herb has long been favored by cooks, but have you tried any other uses for basil? Keep reading to discover a few strange uses for basil.
Strange Uses for Basil
In Italy, basil has always been a token of love. Other cultures have had more interesting basil uses, or rather downright strange uses, for basil. Whatever the ancient Greeks and Romans were using it for, they thought it would only grow if you screamed and cursed at the plant.
If that isn’t strange enough, they also thought that a leaf from the plant left under a pot would turn into a scorpion, although who wanted to attempt this miraculous act is beyond me. The idea persisted into the Middle Ages, however, where it was taken a step further. It was thought that just inhaling the aroma of basil would breed a scorpion in your brain!
Interesting Basil Uses
Craft cocktails are all the rage presently and what better way to put an excess of basil to use. Try adding some bruised leaves to basic cocktails such as gin and tonic, vodka and soda, or even the trendy mojito.
Basil plant uses don’t have to just be alcoholic. Try making a thirst-quenching, non-alcoholic, sweet basil lemonade, or a cucumber, mint, and basil soda. Smoothie devotees will thrill to a banana and basil shake.
Medicinal Basil Plant Uses
Basil has been used for centuries for its medicinal attributes. New studies have found that phenolics found in the herb act as antioxidants. In fact, purple basil has about half the amount found in green tea.
Basil is also said to reduce DNA oxidative damage to slow the growth of leukemia cells. It can aid in relieving an upset stomach, works as a muscle relaxant, and has analgesic properties, which is something to consider before you reach for the aspirin.
For a headache, pour hot water over a bowl of bruised leaves. Hang your head over the bowl and cover the bowl and your head with a towel. Inhale the aromatic steam.
Another easy way to reap the benefits of this herbal plant is by making a tea. Simply chop some fresh basil and add it to a teapot full of water – three tablespoons (44 mL.) to two cups (half a liter). Allow to steep for five minutes and then strain the leaves from the tea. If you like, sweeten the tea with honey or stevia.
Basil also acts as an antiseptic and can aid in clearing acne. Infuse basil in oil such as jojoba or olive oil and allow to sit for three to six weeks. Use the oil to soothe insect bites or rub into sore muscles.
Other Basil Plant Uses
A century of use validates basil plants as a medicinal herb and, of course, it’s already made its mark in the culinary world, but there are still some other, more unusual, ways to use basil in the kitchen.
Use basil in place of lettuce on sandwiches or even as a wrap. Add basil (a little dab is all you need) and the juice of a lemon to an ice cream base for homemade ice cream. Make basil herb butter which can be frozen for later use. If you want a DIY gift project, try making soap from the herb.
If you don’t have the time to make pesto but need a quick way to preserve an overabundance of basil leaves, add them to a food processor. Pulse with a tiny bit of water until smooth. Pour the pureed basil into ice cube trays and freeze. When the cubes are frozen, pop them out of the tray and place them in a sealed plastic bag and back in the freezer for use later in sauces or soups.
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Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.
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