The main ingredient in pesto, this sweet-and-spicy herb adds a fresh taste to many dishes.
Basil is a member of the mint family and is easy to grow. The most common variety (sometimes called Italian or Genovese) has bright green leaves, a slightly peppery flavor and a licorice-like fragrance. Basil is at its peak during summer.
Where to Find It
Fresh basil is available in many supermarkets year-round. In summer, it is a staple of farm stands, where you can often find less common varieties, such as lemon, opal (also called purple), or Thai.
Buying and Storing
Choose basil that has not yet flowered. The leaves should be uniformly green, crisp, and free of black spots; the stems should be tender, not woody. One way to store basil is by wrapping the stems loosely in paper towels, and placing it in a resealable plastic bag in the refrigerator; it will keep up to 4 days.