Basil belongs to the Lamiaceae family most commonly known as the mint family. A culinary herb by nature, i.e., a plant which is used in cooking.
It is most commonly seen in Italian food items, but it is present as an unknown substance in its other forms in many Asian cuisines. It is one of the prime ingredients of all Italian seasonings.
Basil is known for mild pepper like flavor and has a pleasing aroma with slight hint of mint. It’s taste changes as we tend to chew it from mild peppery to a very light yet sweet taste.
The name itself has a Latin origin and means a royal plant. It is usually seen as a bushy plant with lots of branches originating from the stem. The leaves are generally thick and green, and the maximum height for the plant is around 2 feet only though there are exceptions in size.
Some varieties are dwarf sized while there are a few of them which grow higher than the mentioned size of the natural Basil plant. Usually tiny white or purple flowers with a spiky center can be seen on the basil plant.
Basil though itself is thought to be a part of the mint family, yet it further has several types. Each type has distinctive features regarding taste and aroma. Being a flavoring agent a little knowledge about all its types makes it easier for you to understand which types need to be used when.
Various Types of Basils
1) Holy Basil
More commonly known as ‘Tulsi,’ the Holy Basil has a religious value in Hinduism and has been known to have immune boosting qualities. Not only Hindus but ancient Romans and Greeks have also considered Basil to be symbolic of fertility and love. It has a lot of medicinal value attached to it along with its flavor. Though it tastes bitter if consumed raw. It is often used in meat curries and tea (as a flavoring agent). It has a musky odor which quiet peculiar.
2) Sweet Basil
This is the most commonly used variety of this plant. If types of basils are not mentioned while you are buying it then probably this is the type you have picked. It can be used in any form whether sprinkled, cooked or in the form of a paste. It is widely used in Tomato ketchup, Pesto, Soups and as a part of Italian seasonings.
3) Genovese Basil
This Basil is more of everything, i.e., it has a darker green shade; the leaves are more pointed, and it is more aromatic. The taste of Genovese Basil is quite similar to Sweet basil, and both can be used in place of each other. Thus, it can also be used in Tomato ketchup, Pesto, Soups and as a part of Italian seasonings.
4) Napolitano Basil
If you want a zestier experience and wish to have added slightly more pepper to your flavor, then this is the basil to add. It is great in taste and has an aroma which is similar to sweet basil. It is often believed that this variety of Basil tastes best if eaten fresh.
5) Dark Opal Basil
It has a Dark purplish colored leaf which adds a beautiful color to all dishes it is used in. It can be used to add color to vinegar and oils being used to cook or in salads. It has a very strong aroma associated with it. It is more often cultivated for the decorative purpose that it serves rather than its culinary uses.
6) Purple Ruffles Basil
It has a similar color like a dark opal in the veins of the leaves, and these two varieties can be used interchangeably. The only difference will be in the intensity of color that is infused. It is also used to make edible food dyes. Its high-level aroma makes it a favorite for most gardens.
7) Lime Basil
With bright green leaves and a mild yet kicking citrus flavor to it, the lime basil is a popular choice these days. This is a small variety regarding its grown and thus can easily be a part of your kitchen garden. Its lime flavor makes it a popular choice in many chicken and poultry dishes along with sauces and marinades.
8) Lemon Basil
This type of basil has light green and narrow leaves with a lemon like a scent attached to it. It has a satisfying blend of basil and lemon as its taste and is sure to please one and all with the flavor. It is most often used in poultry marinades, grilled fish, desserts and even salads to infuse the lemon-like scent and taste to these dishes.
9) Italian Large Leaf Basil
If you have a sweet tooth and want to add a hint of sweetness and your favorite dishes, then this is the Basil to rely on. It is sweeter than the sweet basil and adds just the right tinge of aroma to the dish. It also acts as a bane to the garden where it is planted by repelling tomato hornworms and mites and also aphids.
10) Greek Basil
This type of Basil has small leaves and can also be used as an ornamental plant. It has a mild spicy flavor to it and is often used as a garnish in soups and salads or to spice up meat and chicken curries. This basil is particularly helpful in preventing and curing spasms.
11) African Blue Basil
This type of Basil is the tallest growing variety of Basil with its height reach of up to 4 feet. Its fragrance is an atypical mixture of various scents which in themselves are strong like that of the camphor, mint, peppers, and cloves. They find their culinary place in the making of many Rice assortments, vegetable and meat dishes.
12) Cardinal Bliss
It is majorly used to provide a spicy tinge to vinegar and oils. Though it does taste spicy, it’s planted in itself a visual treat. It has a green bushy stem with lots of dark green leaves and dark red blooms on top in clusters. The red flowers make it a decorative plant as well.
13) Christmas Basil
This variety is perfect for its addition to mocktails and cocktails, as it gives them a fruity flavor. The name Christmas is coined to it due to its fun flavor just as cheerful as the festival itself is. It is also as beautiful a plant as Christmas is in festivals.
14) Summerlong Basil
It is similar in taste to sweet basil but is a little plant and can be considered to be a miniature version of the sweet basil. This variety matures much earlier in comparison to other types of basil. This basil plant matures fully in around a time span of around two to three months.
15) Lettuce Basil
As the name suggests its leaves are similar to that of a Lettuce, and due to its size, it has more productivity. It is more often used in wraps where other varieties fall short due to their leaf size. It can also be infused with oils as their large size gives a better aroma and flavor to the oil t is infused in.
16) Spicy Bush Basil
It is another smaller type of basil, but its size is just the appearance, it is a blast of flavors and can be used to add a handful of flavor to your sauces, soups, and pasta. Due to its strong flavor, less is more regarding the quantity of the leaves of this particular type of basil to be used.
17) Spicy Globe Basil
This type is associated to a spicier flavor than the rest of the varieties. Just like the Greek basil, this is also a smaller growing plant with small leaves that can be easily grown in containers. As the name suggests, this plant usually grows in a round shape.
18) Cinnamon Basil
This type of basil usually has a lot of fragrance attached to it and a spicy bit of flavor and sugary aroma which is similar to that of cinnamon. It can be used to garnish almost every dish, and due to its attractive appearance, it can be used in flower arrangements as well.
19) Green Ruffles
This plant can be harvested pretty early as well, i.e., in just about 70 days. It’s pretty left with ruffled texture make it a great option for salads while its mild flavor and texture make it a perfect addition to all your pasta delicacies. Due to its distinctive leaves, it is often used as attractive choice as a plant in borders.
20) Sweet Thai Basil
This variety leaves behind a flavor in your mouth that you will not easily forget. It has a slightly spicy zing along with a mild flavor which makes its taste an unmatched one. It is often used in Asian cuisine like noodle salads, fried rice and sometimes even with fruits.
Have you ever tried licorice and liked it? Well then, this type of Basil is sure to please your taste buds. It has a mildly sweet flavor along with hint licorice in its taste. It is also one of the ornamental plants that could be a great addition to your herb garden. This basil is available all through the year with a high level of growth in summers.
Apart from its types, basil plant has certain other important uses such as:
1) Acne can be treated using Basil on the skin.
2) It is used to prevent and treat cold and flu.
3) It can also be used to control blood sugar levels.
4) Its aroma facilitates relaxation, and thus, it can work as an anti-stress medication.
5) This herb possesses certain antibiotic properties which can cure minor illnesses.
6) It helps in the overall process of digestion and also helps calm the stomach and relieve it from a fuller feeling.
7) Steaming ourselves with basil helps to calm headaches and gives a fresh feeling.
8) Some varieties of Basil are also used for decoration purpose due to their appealing and varied looks and sizes.
You can grow Basil at home by following these simple steps:
Select an area where the sunshine will be easily available for your plant and use good quality moist soil to plant the seeds. Water is needed on a regular basis for this plant to grow quickly, give it a time of about 10 weeks to mature into a full-grown basil plant and the leaves are now ready to be sprinkled on any food item you wish.
Basils are herbs which are often known as flavoring seasonings, but their great varieties help in adding a different taste and aroma to all your culinary specialties every time you use a different type. They not only perform the task of bringing flavor to your food but also enhance digestion, and their pleasant aroma makes the food irresistible and delectable.
Though basil usually does not cause allergies but sometimes when we consume it for the first time our body misinterprets it a foreign body and develops antibodies against it, thus causing normal allergic symptoms like sneezing or a runny/ itchy nose.
After all this knowledge about Basil, All I would suggest to you is pick the type as per your taste i.e. chose a basil type that suits your taste preferences whether it be fruity, spicy, sweet or a mix of a few flavors and add it to all the dishes that you find challenging to consume to help you eat and enjoy all possible delicacies which you have been missing all this while.
So many flavors to offer Basil must take a top spot in your favorite seasoning and garnishing options, all its varieties and types are a must try to experience a mouthful of flavors and aroma, wishing you luck on your trial journey with basil.