It may not be well known, but BASIL is part of the mint family, or family Lamiaceae
Here is an alphabetical breakdown of some of the BASILS that I'm familiar with. Any of you out there that care to add to the list, please do!
AFRICAN BLUE BASIL – While not recommended for culinary uses, African blue basil is more often used as an ornamental. A properly tended plant with plenty of room to expand can easily become a grand showpiece in your late spring or early summer garden, making itself the center of conversation among your guests. In zones 9 (maybe 8A) and warmer, given the right protection, this beauty can sometimes transform itself into a cherished perennial.
Because it can mature to four feet, African blue basil works best at the back of an annual border. It's wonderful pink and purple flowers with purple stems and leaves add to its desirability. In fact, many gardeners choose this basil in place of pink- or purple-flowering sage. There’s no need to be afraid of this plants ample volume as, like most basils, it is easily trimmed back.
BUSH BASIL (Ocimum minimum) is a dwarf species. It has similar constituents and flavor to the sweet basil.
CINNAMON BASIL – The name describes it all – basil with a cinnamon flavor. As you can imagine, its strong cinnamon scent easily distinguishes it from the others. It also has a somewhat harrier leaf. This medium-sized annual grows up to 2 ½ feet tall and produces pale pink to purple flowers.
Cinnamon basil is commonly used in hot drinks and added to fruits.
DARK OPAL BASIL – Dark opal resembles a glossy-leafed, burgundy-and-purple coleus with pink flowers. While this two-foot annual is great for landscapes, it can also add a hint of exotic color to culinary favorites such as Italian Caprese or spring garden salads.
GENOVESE BASIL – A well-regarded favorite among foodies, Genovese basil is considered the best basil for use in Italian recipes (pesto, tomato-basil sauce, Caprese salad, etc.) Like sweet basil, this annual has a strong clove fragrance and ranges from 12 to 24 inches in height, but is easily distinguished by its more crinkly and in-turned leaves.
Genovese basil is one of the most popular types and is often used to make pesto. In Italy, it is considered a sign of love. It is claimed that the best Genovese basil, used to make real pesto, is grown in Northern Italy near the city of Genoa.
HOLY BASIL – The attractive green and purple foliage of this perennial, combined with a strong showing of pink and white flowers, make this is an ideal landscape addition. Reaching heights up to three feet with a two-foot span, this hairy-leafed plant produces a fragrant clove scent. While holy basil can be used for culinary purposes in cooked foods, its hairy leaves and woodier stems make it difficult for use as a fresh herb. Holy basil stands the best chance for returning year after year in zones 9 or warmer.
HOLY BASIL, also known as TULSI, is commonly used in Thai cuisine and teas. It is native to the Old World Tropics, and often grows as a weed. Holy basil has been used for thousands of years to heal people and is even worshiped in parts of India.
- Holy basil makes a therapeutic addition to the garden! Its leaves, chopped fresh or dried, can be infused to make a sort of basil tea. It’s good for everything that ails a person, and for the sick in need, there’s absolutely no over-doing it. In cooking, it kind of acts like a multi-spice, so make sure to taste and smell it before adding it to anything, and test its taste with other things. Holy basil has licorice/anise notes, citrus/lemony notes, minty notes, and clove-like notes — and the citrus, clove, and mint notes are about equal.
LEMON BASIL – Similar to the other basils, this annual grows to a height of about two feet, but complements salads, dressing and teas with a savory lemon flavor and fragrance. This basil is a bit spindlier than its other basil relatives and is characterized by a flatter, narrower leaf
Popular for its strong, lemon scent, it is most often used in dishes in Indonesia, Thailand, and Laos.
- MAMMOTH BASIL
Originating in Italy, mammoth basil has leaves that resemble lettuce and have jagged edges. When mature, the plant will be about 14 to 18 inches tall. The large mammoth basil leaves are often used in pesto or used whole in salads.
PERILLA, SHISHO (a basil relative) – There are a few kinds of perilla but this species, with green leaves and purple spots is perhaps the best for cooking. Used most often in Asian cuisine, Shisho has a cinnamon-lemon flavor. Perilla frutecens var “autopurpurea” (also known as a beefsteak plant) is an interesting relative that I’ve included here because of its much stronger licorice flavor that some cooks thoroughly enjoy.
Because it is often confused with coleus, it can double as ornamental basil. Even though it’s an annual, it spreads from seed.
PERILLA (a basil relative ) – Perilla frutecens var “crispa” and “autopurpurea” are also interesting relatives of basil that can be used as ornamentals. AUTOPURPUREA is almost entirely purple while CRISPA has very frilly, divided leaves. Both of these plants can take a little more shade than regular basil, but you shouldn’t expect it to develop the best flavor without more sunlight. Like its relatives, it needs plenty of growing space as it also spreads wildly from seed. Another great plant for the brown-thumbed gardener.
PURPLE RUFFLES BASIL – This is a great plant to spice up the kitchen and the landscape! Perhaps the most colorful basil for landscapes, purple ruffles makes a great addition to salads and pesto. Similar in color to the dark opal, this plant is slightly smaller in stature (reaches up to 1 ½ feet) and its leaves are very frilly and ruffled. While it can handle a shadier spot in the garden, it still needs at least three hours of sunlight to mature properly. Purple ruffles gives off a combination of licorice and cinnamon scents and produces lavender and pink flowers that can also be eaten. Somewhat difficult to start from seeds, this plants works best from transplants.
RED RUBIN basil is a unique, sweet type of basil that has dark purple leaves. Its flavor is sweet like sweet basil, and is used commonly in salads and as a garnish.
SIAM QUEEN BASIL – Siam queen is a type of Thai basil that produces mint green leaves with very large flower heads – up to 6 inches across – that give off a spicy anise scent. ( it smells great!) It reaches heights up to 2 ½ feet, but it can be pinched back – and even eaten! – to restrict growth.
Spicy globe basil is similar to the taste of sweet basil. The main difference with this type is that is grows small, dense, and compact, at most 10 inches tall. Spicy globe basil is perfect for pots and small gardens.
You may purchase SPICY GLOBE BASIL from my store!
SWEET BASIL (Ocimum basilicum) is one of the most common and important culinary herbs in the world and is considered the king of herbs. It has been used for thousands of years in Italian dishes. Sweet basil can be used in almost any dish including meat, pizza, pasta, salad, and in sauces.
Basil and tomatoes go together; in the garden as well as in your sandwich. This is used widely in Mediterranean cuisine. Some of the most famous Italian dishes rely for their memorable flavor on this herb.
Also used as an insect repellant or fly repellant. I use equal parts of basil and sage together whenever I
start noticing flies appearing in my kitchen. I mixed the basil and sage together, ( you only need about ½ teaspoon of each) put it on a paper towel ( I've been known to turn the cover of a jar up and put some in it, you can use a small glass dish or custard cup, anything, as long as it is open) near where the flies seem to be and after a few minutes the flies go away. They don't die, so you don't need to worry about dead flies around. They just go away. I have requested that the waitress or cook in restaurants mix this and bring it to the table, when there are flies in the dining area. More than one cook has actually come out and thanked me and said they'll be using this mixture in the kitchen from then on. So,give a try. Even if the kids get in to it, it won't hurt them.
THAI BASIL, used commonly in Thai and Vietnamese cuisines, has a flavor of licorice and mint this annual is also referred to as anise or licorice basil. It reaches heights up to 24 inches and with a nearly two-foot expanse. . It has small green leaves and purple stems. Thai basil goes great with seafood, chicken, pork, and in curry sauces. stir-fried dishes. Thai basil can also be found served raw with pho, which is a soup made of noodles. In Taiwan, Thai basil can be found in the popular Three Cup Chicken dish. Thai basil is more easily found in specialty grocery stores that carry exotic or high-end fresh herbs.
THAI BASIL IS ONE OF THE BASILS THAT I AM GROWING THIS YEAR! Feel free to look in my store for dried THAI BASIL.
There are three common types of basil that are usually found in Thai cuisine.
KRAPHAO IS better known as Thai holy basil while
MAENGLAK is better known as Thai lemon basil.
All three types, though similar, have different and distinct flavors when used in culinary dishes.
THAI HOLY BASIL is widely used in Indian dishes and is even worshiped and smells of cloves.
culinary uses of thai basil
Thai basil is most commonly used and found in chicken, pork, and curry dishes in Thailand and Vietnam.
WILD BASIL ( Calamintha clinopodium) is a species from northern Europe. It has a scent and flavor reminiscent of thyme.