The round, often pointed leaves of the basil plant looks a lot like peppermint to which it is related. Its highly fragrant leaves are used as a seasoning herb for a variety of foods but has become ever popular as the main ingredient in pesto, the mixture of basil, pine nuts and parmesan cheese.
Basil will tell you if the herbs are fresh. The leaves should be plump, uniform in color, shiny (but not waxy) and not wilted or blemished. The aroma should be fresh and stimulating.
Basil is the perfect complement to tomatoes, olives and olive oil, capers, garlic, cheese and either pine nuts or walnuts. Serve it simple: slivered over thick tomato slices with a drizzle of olive oil, or serve it more complex: sandwiched between thick slices of fresh mozzarella and fresh tomato with a sprinkling of pine nuts and capers, a drizzle of olive oil and a dollop of fine goat cheese.
Moisture can turn basil limp. Wrap in dry paper towel and place in a sealable plastic bag in the fridge.
It's best to tear basil leaves - cutting them with a knife bruises the edges and turns the basil black. If you need to shred basil leaves, do it just before adding to your dish.