Fresh basil (Ocimum basilicum) is used primarily as a raw (fresh) herb in cooking, either in conventional or organic quality.
Culinary uses — basil:
Basil is a popular and aromatic fresh herb found in Italian cuisine. It is impossible to imagine Mediterranean dishes without this herb that is essential for making traditional recipes such as pizza and green pestos as well as in recipes with tomatoes (e.g., tomato salad, fresh tomato sauce, bruschetta, and tomato pesto).
Should you use basil raw or cooked? Fresh basil leaves are usually added to dishes at the end of the cooking process so that the most intense flavor is retained. In contrast to dried basil, fresh basil leaves are more aromatic.
Thanks to its aromatic and slightly peppery taste, basil can be used in place of or to cut down on cooking salt. It harmonizes well with rosemary and sage. In German, basil is sometimes referred to as Deutscher Pfeffer (German pepper). Basil leaves can be added to rich, hearty dishes or legumes (e.g., cannellini beans) as they increase the visual appeal of the dishes and promote digestion. To preserve the freshness and color of the leaves, basil should be washed just before use and then shaken dry.
Basil, which is also known as the royal herb, can be used to season salads, raw dishes, tomato dishes, sauces, and vegetable soups. Minced basil leaves can be added to herb mixes to season veggie patties, vegetables, spinach, risottos, or vegetable fillings. Basil gives wild herb salt, herb oil, herb vinegar, pesto, dry spice mixes, and vegan herb butter an aromatic flavor.
To make fresh basil keep longer, you can put the leaves in oil or layer them in a dark screw-top jar with salt and olive oil. The basil will stay good this way for about four weeks and add a subtle Mediterranean flavor to any dish. To make herb vinegar or herb oil, wash the basil, shake dry, place in bottles, and pour in wine vinegar or a stable oil (high oleic low linolenic (HOLL) canola oil or olive oil). Use 100 g of basil or mixed herbs per liter of vinegar or oil. You might try herbs such as tarragon, thyme, dill, lemon balm, peppermint, rosemary, and hyssop.
Can you eat raw basil seeds?
Gelled basil seeds (raw) can be used in cooking in a similar way to Mexican chia (chia seeds).
Organic basil seeds can be sprouted and eaten as a raw food snack. And you can eat raw basil leaves between meals to freshen your breath.
Vegan recipe for Green Pesto with Fresh Basil:
Ingredients (for 4 servings): 100 g basil, fresh (organic), 2 garlic cloves, raw and peeled, 50 g walnuts, 130 + 20 mL cold-pressed canola oil or walnut oil, 1 pinch cooking salt, 1 pinch pepper
Preparation: Purée fresh basil, garlic, walnuts, and most of the oil in a blender jar until desired consistency is reached. Season the pesto with salt and pepper, transfer to a clean jar, and cover with the remaining oil. The pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. This vegan recipe (Pesto a la Genovese) can also be prepared with less oil, and it also goes well with pasta, bread, crostini, bruschetta, or soups. Canola oil or walnut oil are healthier options for olive oil, which traditionally is used more often.
Recipe for tea with fresh basil:
To prepare a tea with fresh or dried basil, use 1–2 heaped teaspoons of crushed green leaves in 250 mL boiling water. Steep for 10–15 minutes, strain the tea to remove the basil leaves and drink the fresh basil tea unsweetened.1
Drink a cup of basil tea twice a day to treat stomach and intestinal problems (especially for chronic flatulence). After 8 days, stop for 14 days and then drink the tea for 8 additional days.1
You can find vegan recipes with fresh basil at the bottom of the text or in the sidebar: “Recipes that have the most of this ingredient.”
|Not only vegans and vegetarians should read this: |
A Vegan Diet Can Be Unhealthy. Nutrition Mistakes.
Purchasing — where to buy fresh basil?
Basil can be bought dried, rubbed, or fresh — and often also as a fresh potted plant — at popular supermarket chains such as Walmart, Whole Foods Markets, Kroger, and Safeway (United States); Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Aldi, Lidl, and Holland & Barret (Great Britain); Metro, Extra Foods, and Goodness Me (Canada); and Coles, Woolworths, and Harris Farm (Australia). Good places to source regional and certified organic basil include organic grocery stores, health food stores, weekly markets, farms, and subscription boxes (green boxes, seasonal boxes). Dried basil is also available as a raw product that has been gently dried at a maximum of 40 °C.
Basil seeds and basil oil (including organic products) can be ordered online or purchased at specialty stores.
Season: Fresh basil grown in the garden or in fields is in season from June to September.
You can buy pots or bunches of basil that have been grown in greenhouses year-round.
Description of basil: Basil, which grows to about 50 cm, is an annual herbaceous plant with leafy stems and a bushy appearance. The leaves are oval-shaped, with smooth or slightly toothed edges arranged oppositely along the square stems. The flowers are borne in terminal clusters and are white, pink, or purple. North of the Alps, basil is found growing in gardens and as cultivated crops. Wild plants are rarely found.1
Dried basil should be stored in glass or tin containers protected from light and moisture. Plastic containers are unsuitable as they negatively affect the essential oil.2
Place fresh bunches of basil (with stems) in a crisper drawer in the refrigerator that has been lined with paper towels. Basil will retain its aromatic flavor this way for a few days.3
Can you freeze fresh basil? Fresh basil loses much of its flavor when dried. A good way to retain more flavor is to freeze it. To do this, mince the basil leaves; spread them out on a tray, and freeze. After it freezes, you can transfer the basil to freezer bags or containers. Alternatively, you can freeze minced basil in ice cube trays.4
Nutrients — nutritional information — calories in fresh basil:
Per 100 g, fresh basil contains 23 cal, 2.6 g carbohydrates, 3.2 g protein, and 0.64 g fat.5,6
Depending on the origin and time of harvest, the essential oil content in basil varies between 0.04 and 0.7 %. According to the German Drug Codex (Deutscher Arzneimittel-Codex, DAC), basil used medicinally must contain at least 0.4 % essential oil. The main components are linalool, methyl chavicol (estragole), and methyl cinnamate.2
Basil linalool chemotype of basil with 50–70 % linalool as the main component is listed in the DAC for medicinal use. Other components of linalool essential oil include 10–30 % eugenol, 5–20 % 1,8-cineole, and (only) 2–10 % methyl chavicol (estragole). In comparison, the estragole chemotype of basil contains 80–90 % (potentially harmful) methyl chavicol.2
Basil supplements contain about 5 % polyphenols in the form of lamiaceous tannins (e.g., rosmarinic acid and caffeic acid) and flavonoids (e.g., quercetin and kaempferol glycosides) as well as sitosterol (phytosterol), ursolic acid, amyrins, and esculoside.2
At 415 µg/100 g, fresh basil contains 5.5 times the recommended daily requirement of vitamin K. Comparable amounts in fresh foods can be found in 100 g nettles (499 µg), spinach (483 µg), and parsley (454 µg). Significantly higher levels are contained in fresh Swiss chard (830 µg), dandelion greens (778 µg), and kale (705 µg).5,6
Select CLICK FOR under the photo of the fresh basil to see the nutrient tables. These tables provide complete nutritional information, the percentage of the recommended allowance, and comparison values with other ingredients.
Health aspects — benefits of basil:
Is fresh basil healthy? One leading source in Germany (2016) wrote that basil did not have any (sufficiently) confirmed effects.2 More recent studies suggest that basil has antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticarcinogenic effects. Laboratory techniques have been used to show some of these effects in pathogens and (human) cancer cell lines. Basil essential oils may offer a number of options for the food industry, medicine, and cosmetics industry. A small number of clinical studies are available.7,8,9 Most notably, scientific reviews confirm the strong antioxidant capacities of O. tenuiflorum, which is found in Indian basil (see below under “Danger of confusion”).8
Dangers — intolerances — side effects:
Estragole has been shown to be mutagenic (liver tumors) in an animal study in which the animals were administered pure estragole for twelve months. The results should, however, should not be considered conclusive and cannot be generalized to fresh basil.2
The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment expressly states that it is not necessary to avoid basil. It is fine to use it occasionally in cooking as long as it is not all the time. Estragole and methyl eugenol are also found in other plants such as tarragon, star anise, allspice, ground nutmeg, lemongrass, and fennel seed.10,11
A recent 2018 scientific review concluded that, from a toxicological perspective, basil is safe for consumption in food. The flavonoid nevadensin in basil counteracts the carcinogenic effects.
However, in the case of basil essential oils, it would be best to have maximum permissible levels set for estragole and methylchavicol.7
In principle, the estragole problem would be of greater concern if the estragole chemotype of basil were sold commercially in place of the linalool chemotype, the latter of which is described in the DAC. Although there is no acute health risk from the estragole chemotype, for safety reasons, it should not be used medicinally.2
Use as a medicinal plant:
Neither the Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products (HMPC) nor the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP) have issued statements on basil. Commission E, which was the predecessor of the HMPC, wrote a negative monograph for basil as a result of the insufficient evidence of effects and possible risks.2
Traditional medicine — naturopathy:
In the Mediterranean region, basil is used to treat loss of appetite (stomachicum) and bloating and gas (carminative), and is sometimes also used as a diuretic, lactagogue, and for gargling in cases of pharyngitis.2 In empirical medicine, basil has been used to treat gynecological disorders, migraines, and in rare cases urinary organ diseases.1,12
As a home remedy, alcohol extracts of basil are used in ointments and poultices to treat wounds that are healing poorly or festering. You can apply a fresh basil rub to insect bites.1,2,12
Cultivation — harvest:
Basil’s origin is not known for certain. However, it is assumed that it originally came from India and other tropical and subtropical areas in Asia. From there, basil has spread throughout the world. Today, various types of basil are cultivated in the subtropics, especially throughout the Mediterranean region.1,2
Cultivation in gardens or as potted plants:
Growing and eating fresh basil is a good goal. From mid-May, you can plant basil in a sunny and sheltered location. The plants should be spaced 20 to 30 cm apart. Basil prefers nutrient-rich, loose soil that is rich in humus and has a pH of 6.5–7.5. Since the seeds need light to germinate, you should only cover them with a thin layer of soil. The germination period lasts about 10 to 14 days. Let the water warm to room temperature before watering basil as basil is a cold-sensitive plant.1,13
You will be able to harvest the first basil leaves after about 6–8 weeks. It is best to harvest whole stems at a length of 5–7 cm instead of individual leaves. Cut back the tips of the stems regularly to keep the plants from flowering and developing bitter flavors.13 To read a description of basil, see the section “Finding wild” above.
Basil can be grown as a companion plant alongside tomatoes, grapes, bell peppers, green beans, kohlrabi, corn, and onions as it repels pests and fungal spores.
Herbs like dill, lemon balm, savory, and thyme should not be planted in the immediate vicinity of basil.13
As a potted plant, you can grow basil indoors, on the windowsill, or on the balcony. In spring, you can put potted basil outside during the day and as soon as the temperatures no longer fall below 12 °C at night as well.13
What type of care does potted basil need? It is important that the plants are in a sunny, wind-protected place on a windowsill or balcony and that they are watered daily with small amounts of water so that no waterlogging occurs. Potted basil comes in a plastic sleeve so that the plant’s micro atmosphere is protected. It is best not to remove the plastic immediately but to instead cut it down gradually over several days.3
Should you transplant or split basil? To encourage "growing", you can divide potted basil, which is usually quite dense, into several parts and place these in a larger flower box with potting soil and mineral fertilizer (or coffee grounds). Basil benefits from being harvested regularly.3
Animal protection — species protection — animal welfare:
African blue basil, a hybrid basil variety, is a good nectar source for bees and other beneficial insects. This variety of basil blooms profusely and reaches heights of up to one meter.
Danger of confusion:
We are not aware of any poisonous plants that might get confused with basil. However, since there are numerous varieties and types of basil, it may not always be possible to identify the particular one. Holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum syn. Ocimum sanctum, holy basil, sacred basil, tulsi) and Thai basil are sometimes confused. However, holy basil is more frequently called Thai basil (at least in the case of holy basil (kaprao) used in Thai cuisine.
General information about fresh basil:
Fresh basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a culinary herb from the genus with the same name (Ocimum) in the Lamiaceae family.
The many varieties of basil differ in size, leaf shape, leaf color, and fragrance. Some of the most commonly grown varieties include Green Ruffles, Genovese, and Dark Opal (dark purple leaves).
As a culinary herb, basil can be eaten fresh (including Thai basil varieties).
Alternative names for fresh basil:
Alternative names for basil include sweet basil, garden basil, fresh basil, and Saint-Joseph's-Wort.
Medicinal herb: In Latin, basil is called Basilici herba (syn. Herba Basilici, Herba Ocimi) and essential oil is called Basilici aetheroleum (syn. Oleum Basilici).
Literature — sources:
Many researchers do not believe that Wikipedia is an authoritative source. One reason for this is that the information about literature cited and authors is often missing or unreliable. Our pictograms for nutritional values provide also information on calories (kcal).
Many researchers do not believe that Wikipedia is an authoritative source. One reason for this is that the information about literature cited and authors is often missing or unreliable. Our pictograms for nutritional values provide information on calories.
- Pahlow M. Das grosse Buch der Heilpflanzen. Gesund durch die Heilkräfte der Natur. Hamburg: Nikol Verlagsgesellschaft mbH & Co. KG; 8. Auflage. 2019.
- Blaschek W. (Herausgeber). Wichtl –Teedrogen und Phytopharmaka. Ein Handbuch für die Praxis. Stuttgart: Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft mbH; 6. Auflage. 2016.
- Bzfe.de Schneiden statt zupfen. 2019.
- Ugb.de Kräuter trocknen. Sommerliche Vielfalt aufbewahren. Von Irmela Erckenbrecht.
- USDA Nährstofftabellen.
- diet-health.info Nährstofftabellen.
- Sestili P, Ismail T, Calcabrini C, et al. The potential effects of Ocimum basilicum on health: a review of pharmacological and toxicological studies. Expert Opin Drug Metab Toxicol. 2018;14(7):679-692.
- Avetisyan A, Markosian A, Petrosyan M, et al. Chemical composition and some biological activities of the essential oils from basil Ocimum different cultivars. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2017;17(1):60.
- Rezzoug M, Bakchiche B, Gherib A, et al. Chemical composition and bioactivity of essential oils and ethanolic extracts of Ocimum basilicum L. and Thymus algeriensis Boiss. & Reut. from the algerian saharan atlas. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2019;19(1):146.
- Ugb.de UGB-Stellungnahme. Überzogene Warnung vor Fencheltee. 2002.
- Bfr.bund.de Estragol- und Methyleugenolgehalte in Lebensmitteln verringern. 2002.
- Fleischhauer SG, Guthmann J, Spiegelberger R. Enzyklopädie. Essbare Wildpflanzen. 2000 Pflanzen Mitteleuropas. Aarau: AT Verlag; 1. Auflage. 2013.
- Gartenjournal.net Worauf kommt es beim Pflanzen von Basilikum wirklich an? Von Paula Jansen.