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Food

Be Grateful! Be Creative! Basil in Various Versions

One of the things this pandemic taught us is to be grateful with what we have. Simple, basic things, covering our basic needs, are of the outmost importance. Our health, our state of mind, a “roof over our heads” (a home), food on our table, our loved ones close to us. We are part of a complicated and diverse world of nature and we made our lifestyle more complicated with stuff, needs, and thoughts. We may have asked ourselves this summer: what makes me happy? My grandma would say “simplicity is everything.” A more trendy version of this is ‘minimalism’.

For example, sometimes super simple food recipes can explode your palate with taste. Sharing this food will make you enjoy it even more. Creativity is of the outmost importance and nature “lends a hand” to create unique experiences with diverse tasty plants. All this summarized wisdom is the basis of each country’s traditional dishes. In Mediterranean countries, creativity, nature, and sometimes limited materials are three things working hand-in-hand in the history of their food traditions.

A great example is basil. Basil is not a native plant in Greece but it came from the tropical places of India, Africa, or Southeast Asia hundreds of years ago. Hundreds of different cultivars exist today, all with a great power: enhancing memory, reducing stress and mental tiredness, depression, cold and cough, migraines and headaches. This is why September in Mediterranean is the ideal season for collecting basil, gathering this plant before it dries up in winter and using it in a clever way, reducing food waste and enjoying the ideal flavor and healing power of basil on a cold day.

Famous pesto is known from Roman times and today Italy has a different version of pesto in each region. Pesto alla Genovese is the most famous one with crushed garlic, pine nuts, coarse salt, basil leaves, and hard cheese such as Parmigiano-Reggiano, all blended with olive oil. But each area makes it with what they have, so you can see pesto even without basil! Pesto means ‘to crush’, so local plants could be crushed and preserved in olive oil. Also, using different plants and herbs can offer you not only a great ready-to-eat sauce for your pasta, but also the healing properties of these plants. You just crush all together in a blender, add olive oil as a preservative, and keep them in your fringe in jars. If you add cheese you can preserve it in the refrigerator.

So, be creative! Find some plants, herbs and nuts crushed in a delightful combination, add olive oil, and keep them in a jar. A great activity for all the family to preserve vegetables and herbs and reduce food waste!

*The above is not medical advice but mere suggestions for improving your diet. Before reach herbal use you should consult your doctor, especially those who have health issues, are pregnant or are under the age of 6.

Evropi-Sofia Dalampira is an Agriculturist-MSc Botany-Biology and PhD Candidate in Agricultural-Environmental Education and Science Communication

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