Strawberries and Basil

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The Extension Master Food Volunteers (EMFV) recently had a virtual training conducted by Linda Minges the Family and Consumer Science Extension Agent from Gaston County Center. Minges is a registered dietitian and has a Master’s in Public Health.


Her training was on using herbs and spices in cooking. Minges has been teaching this topic for several years in cooperation with the Extension Master Gardeners in Gaston County. She encouraged everyone to think about new ways to add flavor to food without adding fats, sugars, salt, and calories. This can be done with herbs and spices. You can grow your own or many are now available fresh from local grocery stores and farm markets.

Minges has a few tips for people just getting started using fresh herbs:

  • Start with a tested recipe from a reliable source
  • When creating your own recipes, begin with using just one or two types of herbs or spices
  • Always start with a small amount, you can always add more later.
  • In most cases, fresh tender herbs should be added at the very end of the cooking process or just sprinkled on the top of a dish before serving.
  • It’s better to substitute fresh for dried than the other way around. Fresh always has more flavor

The approximate equivalent amounts of different forms of herbs are:

  • 1 tablespoon finely cut fresh herbs
  • 1 teaspoon crumbled dried herbs
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground dried herbs


One of the most popular herbs to use fresh (especially this time of year) is basil. It’s a natural when added to fresh tomatoes and is terrific in pesto, salads and soups. It is a tender herb and needs to be handled carefully. It blackens and bruises very easily when cut. Basil is also very susceptible to cold. If you have a bunch you’re trying to keep, place in a glass of water (like you would a bouquet of flowers) and store covered with a plastic bag on the countertop (not in the refrigerator). Try to use this basic within 5 days. Minges stresses that it’s best to wash and cut just before serving to keep the color fresh and the flavor of fresh is more superior than that of dried basil. Basil freezes well but has the best flavor and color if you use it within three months.

Minges encouraged the EMFV to try new combinations. One that she really likes—it seems unlikely but it is great—is strawberries and basil. Give them a try. Here’s a recipe she recommends using both of these great spring and summer treats.

Strawberry-Basil Muffins

Makes 12 muffins.


  • 3 Tablespoons almonds 
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar 
  • 2 Tablespoons canola oil


  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil 
  • 1 cup nonfat or low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 large egg 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cup chopped strawberries (fresh or frozen, not thawed)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray.
  2. Prepare muffin topping: Using a food processor, process almonds, 2 Tablespoons flour, and 2 Tablespoons brown sugar until finely ground. Transfer to small bowl, drizzle with 2 Tablespoons oil and stir to combine. Set aside.
  3. Combine 1-3/4 cup flour, baking powder and baking soda in large bowl.
  4. Whisk 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup oil in medium bowl with milk, egg, and vanilla extract until well combined. Make a well in center of dry ingredients and pour in wet ingredients; stir until just combined.
  1. Add strawberries and basil; stir just to combine. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups.
  1. Sprinkle with the almond topping, gently pressing into batter.
  2. Bake muffins until golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted in center comes out clean, about 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes; then transfer to wire rack to cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.

 Syracuse is a Family and Consumer Science team member and can be reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center 910-253-2610 or by email at