Tender, fragrant herbs are fabulous additions to green smoothies. Regular salad type greens in smoothies, have either little to no taste or have a bitterness that needs to be balanced by the sweetness and sometimes tartness of fruits. Herbs however, add an element of flavour as well as packing an amazing punch of nutrition and medicinal benefits.
There are hundreds of herb species and thousands of sub species that are in the gardens of people around the world, not to mention what is available in the wild. Whole books are devoted just to herbs, so I will be discussing the four most commonly available and most useful to green smoothies, being basil, coriander, parsley and mint.
All of these herbs have similar properties due to the presence of volatile essential oils and antioxidant vitamins, flavonoids and pigments. Such properties include the ability to calm a stressed or anxious nervous system, yet energise a system that requires stimulation. These herbs are digestive aids, are anti-bacterial, have anti-cancer properties and are anti-inflammatory. They all contain to varying degrees Vitamin C, A and K, Folic acid, Iron, Manganese and Calcium.
Today’s herb to be discussed is Basil
Basil is derived from the Greek word meaning Royal and is the symbol of love in Italy. Basil is in the same family as mints and has similar medicinal properties to spearmint and peppermint in particular.
In addition to the common properties of basil, coriander, mint and parsley, basil has an anti-spasmodic effect on the small intestines, through its ability to relax the smooth muscle of its walls. Basil helps to increase circulation by dilating small blood vessels and is also considered an anti-worm agent.
The aroma of basil is good for memory and concentration particularly in times of mental fatigue. Basil is particularly rich in Vitamin K and also a source of Vit C and A, Folic acid, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese and Calcium. Zeathanthin contained in basil, is a yellow, carotenoid, antioxidant pigment that is good for the health of the macula of the eye.
Basil is warming and can have a clove like taste. It goes with the following green smoothie friendly ingredients:
- Coconut milk
Growing basil isn’t hard, and being able to pluck a few leaves up to a big handful is nothing short of wonderful every time. Home grown basil tastes so much better than shop bought and so much cheaper! I have found it’s easier to grow basil successfully from seedlings than from seed, and to get basil for a good 4-5 months, the trick is to keep picking off the seed heads. Basil will keep trying to go to seed, however if you pick out the seed heads every few days you will getting bushier basil that seems to last forever!
Basil storage isn’t as successful as other herbs as the leaves bruise and go black very easily. If you choose to grow basil yourself, just pick it and use immediately. If buying it, store it unwashed in a tea towel lined container and wash as needed, or wash very gently, let it air dry and store the same way. Use stored basil within 2-3 days.
Look out for my posts on mint, coriander and parsley to come.