Basil's fragrant leaves send flavor to the very core of a dish. Sweet basil is the most popular of an herb family that includes basil varieties with a hint of lemon or anise flavor. It's easy to grow in a garden; if you keep pinching off leaves from the center of the plant, it will continue to grow all summer. The white flowers are edible, too, and they should be pinched off to prevent the plant from using its energies to go to seed instead of continuing to produce the tender leaves.
Once picked, basil becomes a little more fragile. To keep it freshest, trim the stems and put the "bouquet" into a jar or glass with an inch or so of water. Enclose the glass in a tightly sealed plastic bag and store in the refrigerator.
When you're reay to use it, pinch off the leaves and discard the fibrous stems. If basil will be sprinkled on top of a dish as a garnish, shred or chop the leaves just before serving time to prevent them from blackening at the edges.