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Basil: properties and benefits

Written by Veronica Lavenia

Credits: © Ph. Veronica Lavenia

Do you know the properties and benefits of basil?

Basil is the most representative aromatic plant of Italian summer cuisine. From tomato sauce, to basil pesto, to Caprese, there is no dish that does not contain such a fragrant ingredient.

Basil: properties and benefits

Basil is rich in iron and calcium. If consumed constantly, when in season, itcontributes to the well-being of bones and teeth. Poor sodium, basil is rich in Potassium and also in Vitamin C, typical properties of fresh and not dry basil. The quantity of B vitamins and folates is also good. Basil has antifungal properties and is also a good antibacterial and antioxidant. It has always been recognized as an excellent digestive.

How to grow basil:

Basil is easy to grow, gives color and, with its unmistakable scent, keeps away some insects, including mosquitoes.

In Italy, usually it is cultivated in pot more than on the ground (I cultivate it in both ways), buying young plants to be transplanted that grow much faster than seeds. In the geographic regions with the mildest climate, it can be planted as early as the end of April. Where it is colder, it is preferable to wait for sunny days or protect the basil if the temperatures, despite the late spring, are still cold.

After the purchase, you must transplant the seedlings in wide and deep pots and spaced about 20 cm from each other. The soil must be organic. Four spoonfuls of it and one of mature manure will suffice. I do not add any fertilizer but only water every day. As soon as the seedlings are growing, cut off the top of the twigs so as to encourage the growth of the plant even on the sides and keep it young.

Wet it with a watering can so as to always keep the soil moist but not soggy. The water should not be too cold. The basil plant must be placed in an area that guarantees at least five hours of sun every day. The shadow prevents the growth of the plant and does not help the same to develop its aroma.

Cut only the leaves that are useful for your recipes. Do not keep in the fridge because it blackens. At the end of the season, you can wash, dry and freeze the basil leaves, in order to be available in winter too.


The varieties of basil:

The common basil, of an intense green color, is the most known and loved. There are other varieties of basil that are less known but full of just as many properties and beauty.


Arctic basil:

it is among the most fragrant, fresh and pungent. It is used to flavor dishes but also to prepare excellent digestive infusions.
The name also derives from the ability of this variety to grow in areas with cooler temperatures than in the milder Mediterranean.

Cinnamon basil:

it has dark leaves and is ideal for the preparation of ethnic dishes, due to its spicy and intense aroma.

Greek basil:

it has an intense aroma and tolerates low temperatures well. Its small leaves are ideal for growing in pots on the balcony.


Red (or purple) basil:

it is a prized basil. Its large leaves and an intense color make it ideal as an ornamental plant. It is widely used in Asian cuisine, especially for the preparation of red curry. To keep the leaves of this color, it needs a lot of sun.


Ph. Veronica Lavenia

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About the author

Veronica Lavenia

Veronica, PhD, is an Italian based food writer. Born and raised in Italy, surrounded by the thriving culture and spirit of Sicily, Veronica was a University academic before becoming a food writer. In the context of academic research, she has published essays on the Spanish-American narrative in national and international Academic Journals. As freelance journalist, she wrote about book reviews and tennis. Food was the subject she thought about most so, inspired by family recipes, and valuable Italian culinary heritage, she moved into writing her experiences and studies on the subject.
Sustainability, seasonality and selection of raw materials (as much as possible local, organic and unrefined) are the basis of Veronica’s natural food philosophy.
Cookery author, "Gluten Free Heaven" magazine contributor, some of her works have appeared in "Vegetarian Living", "Veggie Magazine", "Lifestyle FOOD", "Australian Good Food & Travel Guide" and "Chickpea", among others.