We’re starting to harvest our first basil crop and are consumed with olfactory reverence over this iconic edible plant. It was no surprise to us to learn that the word ‘basil’ comes from the Ancient Greek word ‘basilikohn’, which means ‘royal’, reflecting the ancient civilization’s attitude to this highly fragrant, beautiful herb. In India, basil was cherished as an icon of hospitality, and in Italy, it was a symbol of love. While it was originally native to India, Asia and Africa, it now finds a prominent place in most of the best cuisines in the world, including Vietnamese, Thai, Italian, and contemporary American cooking.
For a long time, we knew only only type of basil -- Genovese, named after its origin in Genoa on Italy’s Ligurian Coast. This is the basil of pesto; it’s a type of sweet basil and has delicate buttery leaves. It wilts easily when it gets too warm and perks right back up with a bit of cold water. But this is not the only kind of basil. In fact, there are over 60 varieties of basil, all of which differ somewhat in appearance and taste. When we first installed the herb boxes on the Urban Radish patio, we planted a varied crop including lemon basil, cinnamon basil, anise basil and sweet basil. In our new aeroponic patio farm we planted 3 varieties: Genovese, because we make a lot of pesto at The Radish, Thai, because it’s so beautiful and aromatic and Greek basil, because its tiny leaves grow into a wondrous globe, and…I guess because we’re Greek and a bit biased. We’ll bring lemon basil back into the mix in the summer when Lemon Basil-Mint Lemonade is ‘oh so perfect’.
So, what to do with our varied basil crop? Here are few key uses and recipes from our culinary team at The Radish:
- Genovese Basil Pesto: the quintessential pesto for pasta and bread dipping. In addition to pasta, we use this aromatic spread on our Breakfast Avocado Toast and it has a prominent spot on our lunch-time Burrata Sandwich. www.urban-radish.com/recipes/genovese-basil-pesto
- Greek Basil: Greek basil is more subtle and it’s sweeter than its Italian counterpart. Aromatic, lightly fresh and pleasantly spicy, the taste is somewhat like anise or cloves. We love to use toss this leaf whole in our Insalata Caprese, www.urban-radish.com/recipes/caprese-salad. Poli Ωραία!! (means ‘very beautiful’ in Greek)
- Thai Basil: We love to put out vegetable curries for our dinner buffet – they seem to always be the first to disappear. The Arts District loves flavor, which is great for us because we love to explore exotic spices and aromatic greens in our cooking and curry is the new comfort food. A perfect application for the very aromatic Thai Basil is Green Curry of course. Here’s a Caribbean Seafood Curry, which we owe thanks to the creativity of Chef Eric Rippert. www.urban-radish.com/recipes/seafood-curry