Gourmet Garden™ Basil Paste Review
Commercially produce spice and herb pastes can be a boon to home-cooks in terms of ease of storing, handling, and all-around convenience, but when it comes to taste, many fail at reproducing the full flavor and nuances of the fresh article. Gourmet Garden™ produces several herb and spice pastes, one of which is the recently reviewed Lemon Grass in a Tube. The Lemon Grass product did rate high for convenience, but it was marked by a weak and insipid flavor profile. The Basil Paste, I am happy to report, is far superior.
Appearance and Taste
When squeezed from the tube, Gourmet Garden™ Basil Paste has a very vibrant, emerald green color. It is so brightly vibrant, in fact, that one might almost describe it as being rather too artificial looking, but that would really be a bit of an unfair quibble.
For most purposes, this paste is going to be stirred in to a sauce, or other preparation, and the appearance will be of fairly small consequence. However, even if one were to use it where the appearance is more critical … as a pesto-type pasta sauce, for instance … the appearance is sufficiently similar to a paste made from fresh basil leaves as to be perfectly acceptable.
As for the taste, I am not going to go so far as to say that it is indistinguishable to that of a home-made paste using fresh basil leaves, but It does reproduce the experience of the fresh article more closely than many similar commercial products.
One of the aspects of making a paste from fresh basil leaves is that it can sometimes have a slightly harsh, almost bitter, aftertaste, especially if the paste is left to sit for a while. In this product, though, that particular quality is noticeably absent. The only aspect of the overall taste that does not work well is the addition of dextrose which results in an artificial sweetness that is rather unfortunately out of place.
For stews, soups, casseroles, or other preparations where basil is a secondary, background ingredient, you can use this paste as a substitute for freshly made basil without detracting from the quality of the finished dish in any noticeable way. As primary ingredient, however, such is in a Pesto Genovese, for example, you are probably better off waiting for fresh basil to be available. Still, even here, if you are in a pinch, this commercial paste will serve quite decently as well.
All of the tube packaged herbs and spices produced by Gourmet Garden™ are inherently convenient, both as regards storage and use, but the Gourmet Garden™ Basil Paste is especially so.
Dried Basil never keeps it flavor very long and the fresh stuff, once picked, wilts, darkens, and goes off in no time at all. Unless you have plants growing nearby all the time and can pick just a few leaves as needed, you often end up wasting purchases. It doesn’t freeze well, so even that isn’t an option.
Look at the paste in the above picture once again…
That paste is from a tube that was opened almost a year before that picture was taken and left forgotten in the back of the fridge!! It honestly tastes just as fresh and sprightly as it did originally…. THAT is convenience.
The paste in this tube doesn’t have the same strength as a paste just made from fresh leaves, but what you are purchasing here is the ability to have Basil on hand when you need it. Use fresh Basil whenever you can, but I recommend having a tube of this on hand as well.