Ask any herb gardener and they’ll likely tell you the basil plant is their most beloved when it comes to spring recipes and cooking up a homegrown culinary storm. It’s no surprise. The easy-to-grow plant looks lustrous and smells fragrant in equal measure. Its aroma will happily pair with many savoury and even some sweet flavours — jasmine, mint and citrus all work well — across cuisines from Asia to Europe, livening up your favourite spring recipes, one mouth-watering morsel at a time.

Originating in India, more than 160 varieties of the plant grow around the world in beautiful green and purple hues. We’ll begin our countdown of spring recipes in Italy, in celebration of the deep green of many basil varieties, reflected in the nation’s flag.

Classic Italian Basil & Pine Nut Pesto

The result of one of many delicious spring recipes for classic pesto using basil

This easy, gluten-free, vegetarian recipe takes just five minutes to prepare and will serve six.

Once you have mastered this simple, homemade pesto, the world of Italian cuisine will open up to you. It can be used in many dishes — from a simple Caprese salad to an exquisite pasta feast.

Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch of fresh Genovese or Napoletano basil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 50g of pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 50g of Parmesan (replace with 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast as a vegan alternative)
  • Rock salt
  • Black pepper

Method

  1. Peel the garlic and crush it in a mortar and pestle with a pinch of rock salt
  2. Add the basil and pine nuts and pound the mix into a rough paste
  3. Mix in the olive oil and the Parmesan (or nutritional yeast)
  4. Continue pounding until the pesto is as smooth as you like it
  5. Season to taste with salt, black pepper, and olive oil

Hey, presto! You made pesto!

Recipe inspired by Jamie Oliver’s Fresh Basil Pesto.

Sweet Basil & Courgette Spring Soup

One of many spring recipes for courgette soup

This refreshing, zingy soup serves four to six people. It can be on the table in just 20 minutes from prepping to serving. It’s great served hot with warm bread or chilled on a summer’s day.

Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch of roughly chopped lemon basil leaves
  • 1 large leek
  • 3 celery ribs
  • 3 firm courgettes
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 5 cups of water
  • Rock salt
  • Black pepper

Method

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat until simmering
  2. Dice the leek and celery and add them to the pan, stirring for about 5 minutes until they are soft, but not brown, and season with salt
  3. Mince the garlic, mix it in, and cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant
  4. Chop the courgettes, add to the pan, and stir for about 1 minute
  5. Roughly chop the basil and stir in half of it, then pour in the water
  6. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the courgette is tender but still bright green
  7. Add the rest of the basil and blend the mixture until it is the desired texture
  8. Season to taste with salt, black pepper, and olive oil

Recipe inspired by J. Kenji López-Alt’s Easy, Summery Zucchini-Basil Soup via Serious Eats.

Pad Krapow Gai

Bowl showing results of Pad Krapow Gai or Spicy Thai Basil Chicken spring recipe

This Pad Krapow Gai (or Spicy Thai Basil Chicken) recipe provides two large portions in about 25 minutes. This incredibly flavoursome dish works with either Asian Basil or Holy Basil and is a great spring recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of thinly sliced, fresh Asian/Holy basil leaves
  • 1 pound of chopped skinless and boneless chicken
  • 2 portions of cooked rice
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup of sliced shallots
  • 4 minced cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of minced Thai chillies
  • ⅓ cup of chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons of fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of brown sugar

Method

  1. Blend the chicken broth, oyster sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, white sugar, and brown sugar together in a bowl
  2. Heat a large skillet over a high heat and drizzle the in oil in, add the chicken and stir-fry until it loses its raw colour
  3. Stir in the shallots, garlic, and sliced chillies and continue cooking on a high heat until the juices start to caramelise in the bottom of the pan
  4. Add a tablespoon of the sauce mixture to the skillet, and cook until it caramelises
  5. Pour in the rest of the sauce mixture, cooking and stirring it until the sauce glazes onto the meat
  6. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in basil, cooking until the basil wilts and serve with rice

Recipe inspired by Chef John’s Spicy Thai Basil Chicken via All Recipes.

Green Basil Ice Cream

One of many spring recipes for green basil ice cream, presented here in a ramekin

Basil is a member of the mint family, so it’s only natural it makes a great ice cream. This spring recipe is best made 24 hours before you want to serve, to allow for time to cool and freeze. Otherwise, it takes 20 minutes to prep and serves between eight and ten people.

Ingredients

  • 25g of chopped sweet basil
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 150g of golden caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of cornflour
  • 500ml of milk
  • 300ml of double cream

Method

  1. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and cornflour in a mixing bowl until pale and fluffy
  2. Heat the milk in a saucepan until just beginning to bubble around the edge of the pan
  3. Slowly stir the hot milk into the egg mixture and add the mixture to the pan
  4. Add the basil and cook gently, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens slightly
  5. Pour the mixture back into the mixing bowl and allow to cool and, once cold, cover and chill further for at least 4 hours
  6. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve, squeezing the basil with a spoon
  7. Whisk the cream into the cold mixture
  8. Pour into an ice cream maker and churn until frozen

Recipe inspired by Jaqueline Bellefontaine’s Basil Ice-Cream via Recipes Made Easy.

Lemon & Cinnamon Basil Herbal Tea

The result of one of many delicious spring recipes for herbal teas using basil

Basil — especially varieties such as Christmas basil and Cinnamon basil — can be complementary to traditional tea flavourings because of their subtle, spicy aroma.

Ingredients

  • Bag of black tea
  • Handful of fresh basil leaves
  • Lime or lemon slices

Method

  1. Boil a pot of water
  2. Gently mash the lemon and basil in your mug with a wooden spoon or spatula
  3. Add the black tea bag to your mug and fill with boiling water
  4. Leave to infuse for a few minutes before drinking

Recipe inspired by Sonja and Alex Overheiser’s Basil Tea via A Couple Cooks.

Spring Recipes with Basil for Herbalists

Basil is largely considered a culinary herb — and it’s best used fresh especially in spring recipes. While most varieties of basil love sunny weather, they can also be grown indoors in a plant pot. But if you grow a beautiful crop over summer, why not freeze or dry some to be stored throughout winter? Dried basil not only serves as a great seasoning or garnish in many spring recipes — it can be added to your self-care regime all-year-round, too.

Dark purple basil resting against bottle of essential oils which can be made using some easy spring recipes

While herbal bathing is often associated with relaxation, basil — with its notes of liquorice and aniseed — is an excellent herb for drawing an aromatic and energising bath to awaken your senses and leave you feeling invigorated and refreshed. In aromatherapy, essential oils infused with basil are thought to stimulate, clarify, and uplift the mind. Basil is often combined with citrus aromas such as mandarin, orange, lime and lemon, to boost these effects.

To create your herbal bath, blend the dried, loose herbs and tie the mixture into a sachet to prevent it clogging and sticking to your skin. The sachet can be tied to the spout for the hot – but not boiling – water to run through or simply added to the water to infuse.

Try African Blue basil or Dark Opal basil, for their deep purple tones and pretty flowers. You can also create beautiful flower displays and potpourri arrangements with these varieties of basil.

They are by no means the only varieties of basil that can become a welcome all-year-round addition to your spring recipes, home kitchen and garden. With a basil plant to suit everyone’s tastes, it’s time to get planting and see which ones bring you joy.

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