Called the “royal herb” by the ancient Greeks, this annual is a member of the mint family. Fresh basil has a pungent flavour that some describe as a cross between liquorice and cloves. It’s a key herb in Mediterranean cooking, essential to the delicious Italian pesto, and is becoming more and more popular in the kitchen.

Most varieties of basil have green leaves, but one – opal basil – is a beautiful purple colour. Lemon basil and cinnamon basil have green leaves, their perfume fragrance and flavour match their respective names.

Fresh basil is rich in Vitamin A and is a good source of Vitamin C, riboflavin, calcium and iron. If used as an ingredient in a salad it can make a contribution to the nutrient content of the diet.

Nutritional Value

Nutrient Fresh
Energy kJ 169
Kcal 40
Protein g 3.1
Carbohydrate g 5.1
Fat g 0.8

A good source of…

Nutrient Fresh
Vitamin A One TickOne TickOne TickOne Tick
Vitamin C One TickOne Tick
Riboflavin One Tick
Calcium One TickOne Tick
Iron One TickOne Tick

For more information on nutrition and the details given above, check out our nutrition page.

Preparing and Using

Choose evenly coloured leaves with no sign of wilting. Refrigerate basil, wrapped in barely damp paper towels and then in a plastic bag, for up to four days. Or store a bunch of basil, stems down, in a glass of water with a plastic bag over the leaves. Refrigerate in this manner for up to a week, changing the water every two days. To preserve fresh basil, wash and dry the leaves and place layers of leaves, then coarse salt, in a container that can be tightly sealed. Alternatively, finely chop the cleaned basil and combine it witha small amount of olive oil. Freeze in tiny portions to flavour sauces and salad dressings. The leaves may be puréed with a bit of water or stock and frozen in ice cube trays. Basil is excellent for flavouring vinegars and oils.

It is an essential herb in the preparation ofMediterranean food. Pair with ripe tomatoes,as in the classic Caprese salad. Pesto, the Ligurian basil sauce that is synonymous with summer, can also be frozen (before adding the cheese). Always tear the leaves for salads to avoid bruising, and add at the last minute,since vinegar dressings can affect the flavour of the herb. Mash into soft butter, alone or mixed with other herbs. Or, using a very sharp knife to minimise bruising, cut in a chiffonade to add to finished soups, sauces, or egg dishes.

Basil can be dipped in batter and deep-fried to serve as a starter with a selection of other herb fritters and a dip. It is used in a wide variety of soups and stews including beef, chicken, fish,minestrone, pea, potato, tomato and vegetable.It is used in butter, cheese, cream, fish, salsa and tomato sauces. It is added to breads,marinades, pizza, stuffing and tomato juice. It goes well with chicken, duck, halibut, mackerel,salmon, tuna and turkey as well as beef, lamb,liver, pork, rabbit, sausages, veal and venison.


For some basil recipes, visit the Bord Bia website here

Striploin Steaks with Roasted Baby Tomatoes and Vegetable Puree

If you are looking for an impressive dish packed full of flavour, then this is it! The purée can be made well in advance. Use whatever green vegetables are in season; or frozen broad beans or peas, which are readily available also work well.

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Spanish Omelette with Roast Pepper, Goats Cheese, Basil and Spinach

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