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Quit Chopping Your Basil Because Hand-Torn Tastes Better

My brother, Chris, recently gifted me a bouquet of super fragrant basil from his verdant garden, and the leaves were so lovely, so fresh and delicate, I decided to take that extra step so many recipes call for and try tearing it before adding it to a Greek salad. The results made me a basil tearing believer for life.

Why It's So Worth the Trouble

We've all seen recipes that call for gently tearing basil and adding the tender herb just before serving, but it's one of those instructions I've always ignored. What's the big deal if the basil gets a little bruised when it's sliced with a knife. (The sharper the knife, the better, if you insist on going that direction.) When chopped, the leaves turn dark, sometimes they even take on a black quality that's not very pretty.

It might seem like a time saver to chop fresh basil, but it only takes a few minutes to finish a salad or a top a pasta or make a stew truly memorable. Somehow, tearing it gave me a heightened sense of appreciation for all the effort behind the growing process. The planting, weeding, watering and general tending seems pretty straightforward, but my thumb's never been green. That's why I'm so blown away when friends and families share their harvest, and why I'm a firm believer in local farmers markets.

But back to that basil for a sec: It looked gorgeous, of course, but I swear the torn leaves had a much more pronounced basil flavor. It gave those juicy tomatoes a kick and grabbed hold of the extra virgin olive oil in a way that didn't create a slick. It was a spectacular way to celebrate the waning days of a long, hot summer. Of course, you can buy fresh basil year-round, but I'm so grateful to my brother for this edible lesson in the virtues of taking a little extra time during dinner prep. The delicious memory of that salad will stick with me until the next growing season, when I might even be inspired to planting some basil of my own.

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About Leslie Kelly

Always hungry to learn, never had my fill of oysters, Memphis dry rub ribs, wild salmon, chocolate chip cookies or a well-rolled lumpia. Washington state wine lover, bourbon fan. Totally obsessed with brunch!