This versatile member of the mint family adds a bright, slightly sweet taste to pretty much anything.

Fresh basil
Credit: John Lawton

How to Choose

Look for bunches with whole, smooth leaves that are bright green and fragrant.

How to Store

If the basil comes with the roots attached, place the bunch in a glass filled with a few inches of water and leave at room temperature (avoid sunny spots). Otherwise, wrap the stems in a damp paper towel and refrigerate in a plastic or mesh bag. With either method, it should last up to 4 days.

How to Prepare

Basil tends to be sandy, so rinse well before using. Prevent browning and bruising by using a sharp knife and cutting just before serving. To slice many leaves at once, stack them, roll them up lengthwise (like a cigar), and slice crosswise.

5 Ways to Enjoy Basil

  • Prosciutto Sandwich With Basil and Avocado
    Drizzle split ciabatta with olive oil and fill with prosciutto, sliced avocado, and whole basil leaves.
  • Pasta With Roasted Eggplant, Tomatoes, and Basil
    Toss cherry tomatoes and diced eggplant with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast at 400º F until tender. Toss with cooked penne and torn basil leaves; dollop with ricotta and drizzle with olive oil.
  • Watermelon, Basil, and Feta Salad
    Drizzle cut-up watermelon with olive oil and sprinkle with crumbled Feta and torn basil leaves; season with salt and pepper.
  • Basil Aïoli
    Mix chopped basil leaves and fresh lemon juice into mayonnaise. Serve with grilled shrimp, roasted potato wedges, or cut-up raw vegetables.
  • Basil Lemonade
    In a small saucepan, bring ½ cup sugar and ½ cup water to a boil; add 1 cup basil leaves, remove from heat, and let cool. Add a splash of the basil syrup to lemonade; garnish with basil sprigs.