You are here

The Herb of the Week? Basil! And Announcing a New Product: BBG BBQ Sauce

The Herb of the Week? Basil! And Announcing a New Product: BBG BBQ Sauce

by Barbara Smith

Herb of the Week:  Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

Surely, one of the most delightful and widely used herbs is common sweet basil, the “king of aroma as well as flavor,” commented Liz Leonard, the coordinator for Berkshire Botanical Garden’s Herb Display Garden (alongside the Center House). This reference may derive from the Greek word basilikon, meaning “royal” or “kingly” in reference to basil’s scent and its royal purple flower wand.

Basil is an easy-to-grow annual, a member of the mint family. Sow seeds in late spring in rich, well-composted soil and in full sun. More than 60 species are found in the Basil genus. Shopping for basil seed will enable you to find a flavor that suits your needs; the less common types are available through catalogs or online. Cultivars are grouped based on leaf size, leaf color, stem color, flower color, or aroma. Once the plant develops, be sure to harvest before the flowers appear for a milder taste.

The classic big leaf Basil “Genovese” is most often used in pesto or in other pasta or Mediterranean dishes. The spicy “Thai” with its licorice and minty fragrance is often used in curries, noodle dishes or soups. Cinnamon Basil is perfect in tomato sauces and some soups or baked goods. Lemon Basil has a distinctive aroma and flavor, delightful in lemonade and iced tea as well as in vinaigrette. Purple varieties, such as “Opal” or “Purple Ruffles,” provide beautiful color as well as taste; try planting them with marigolds for a lovely ornamental display. 

You are likely to have your favorite pesto recipe already, but consider making basil oil with some of your bounty. Blanch two (tightly packed) cups of basil leaves for a few seconds and thoroughly dry them on paper towels. (Blanching will help keep the leaf color a bright green in the final product.) In a food processor or blender, combine the blanched and dried leaves along with a cup of olive oil and one teaspoon of salt; process until smooth. The finished basil oil makes a delicious dipping sauce for hearty bread or crudites; or use the oil in salads, drizzled on cooked vegetables or chicken. Thanks to one of the Herb Associates for this basil oil suggestion.

Nutritionally, basil is high in vitamins A, C and K, and it has antioxidant and antibacterial properties. There are no modern medicinal uses for basil, although historically it was used as a tea to help digestion or ease constipation.


New Product Announced — BBQ Sauce!

The Herb Associates Kitchen Team has developed the “BBG BBQ Sauce,” a moderately spicy sauce that includes seasonally available garlic chives and a fresh bay leaf in each bottle. The taste testers were delighted with the finished product. 

A new batch of “Fresh Herb French Dressing” was made along with a new batch of “Harvest Marmalade,” featuring orange tomatoes, sliced lemons and candied ginger. Finally, a new batch of “Herbes de Provence” replenished the supply at the BBG Gift Shop, where you can find all the Herb Associates products. Proceeds from sales support the Garden.

The Berkshire Botanical Garden’s Herb Associates began in 1957 and have been making and selling products for the benefit of BBG ever since. At BBG, the Herb Associates oversee a display garden and production garden, both located near the Center House. Members/volunteers meet every Tuesday morning during the late spring through mid-autumn each year, coinciding when the gardens themselves are open to the public. Members plant, weed and tend the gardens, as well as harvest and process the variety of herbs.

Help Our Garden Grow!

Your donation helps us to educate and inspire visitors of all ages on the art and science of gardening and the preservation of our environment.

All Donations are 100% tax deductible.