Valley Bounty: Basil

Along with the sunlight persisting until close to nine o’clock and the sudden emergence of yard sales on every block, one of the surest signs to me of the arrival of summer is the ready availability of fresh basil at my local farmers’ market (and my subsequent desire to consume as much basil as possible while it’s in season). For the most part, when we think of basil, we think of a variety called sweet basil, which is common in Italian cooking and is the base ingredient in pesto. Other varieties include: Thai basil, which is slightly spicy with a hint of anise-like flavor; lemon basil, which, oddly enough, tastes a bit like lemon; and holy basil, or tulsi, which is less commonly used in cooking but has a long history of use in certain religious and medicinal traditions.

For a change of pace, try adding Thai or lemon basil to your next stir fry, or make a spicy marinade for chicken with Thai basil, garlic, fish sauce, sesame or peanut oil, rice wine vinegar, and a bit of red chili paste. Muddled lemon basil and fresh cucumber makes a nice complement to gin and tonic, as well.

Valley Bounty is written by Brian Snell