UF Hack: Drink Your Basil Seeds

Letting your basil plants go to seed isn’t a bad thing—use the seeds in internationally inspired drinks and desserts.

by Aliza Sollins
PHOTO: Forest and Kim Starr/Flickr

Basil plants are useful for more than pesto. If your plants have gone to seed, you will likely have a large amount left over, even after setting aside seeds for planting next year. Those seeds are a valuable edible resource.

Basil seeds are popular in a variety of drinks in many Asian and Middle Eastern countries. You may have seen canned basil seed drink or packaged basil seed (aka tukmaria or sabza/sabja) in your local international market. Recipes for basil drinks differ according to region and country. The main similarity between all of the recipes is that the drinks are meant to be served cold and enjoyed in the summertime—basil seeds are believed to have cooling properties according to Ayurvedic medicine.

Basil seed drinks are popular in Asia and the Middle East.
marianne muegenburg cothern/Flickr

It’s not uncommon for people to compare the appearance of soaked basil seeds to tadpole eggs. The seeds will triple in size when soaked in water, and each small black seed will be surrounded by a clear gel, similar in texture to soaked chia seeds or tapioca pearls. The seeds are a great source of fiber and could be used as a homegrown replacement in a chia seed pudding recipe or bubble-tea style drink.

You can make a very simple recipe by mixing a tablespoon of basil seeds into a glass of lemonade made with simple syrup and lemon juice. Let the seeds soak for about 30 minutes in the lemonade and enjoy!

For a more complicated food adventure, you can experiment with any number of recipes for falooda, a sweet dessert beverage popular in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, with varieties in Kurdistan, Mauritius, and Thailand. Recipes can include ice, sweetened milk, cream, vermicelli noodle threads, rose syrup and a variety of other ingredients.

Basil plants are the perfect starter for even the most beginning urban homesteader. Grow the plant until it goes to seed, and you are on your way to a homegrown food adventure!

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