Sweet basil has an ineffable flavour reminiscent of anise, clove, and mint. Although its aroma is heady, the flavour of most varieties is mild and sweet enough that it can be used in abundance. Dried basil loses much of the sweet delicacy and subtlety of its fresh counterpart, with a spicier, clove-mint flavour that works best in long-cooked sauces.
There are more than 50 species of basil, differing in size, colour, appearance, and flavour, and even more cultivars. Large-leafed sweet basil is the variety most commonly used in the kitchen.
Holy basil (O. sanctum) has an intense, pungent aroma and attractive, deep purple blossoms. Sacred in India, it is often planted around Hindu shrines.
Genovese (or bush) basil (O. minimum) has small leaves with mild flavour and is used for classic pesto.
The highly aromatic basil napoletano is grown in the region of Naples, Italy, and has large, rounded, light green, crinkled leaves; a sweet fragrance; and a mellow, rich flavour.
Purple ruffled basil (O. basilicum ‘Purple Ruffles’) has a mild, pleasing flavour and deeply coloured ruffled leaves that are attractive in a salad or as garnish.
Strikingly beautiful dark opal basil (O. basilicum ‘Purpureum’) is deep purple with smooth leaves and a minty flavour.
Thai basil (O. basilicum ‘Thai Queen’ and others) has slender oval leaves with purple stems and blossoms. Because only cooking fully releases its exotic peppery flavour, this type is not eaten raw, but added in generous amounts to stir-fries and spicy soups.
Cinnamon basil (O. basilicum ’Cinnamon’) has a distinct cinnamon fragrance that complements Southeast Asian dishes.
Refreshing lemon basil (O. citriodora) and lime basil (O. americanum), both from Thailand have a citrusy flavour.
Curly (or lettuce-leafed) basil (O. crispum) has leaves almost as large as lettuce and may be added to salad or used to wrap fish before steaming.
Make basil chiffonade (shredded basil) by layering washed and dried leaves, rolling into a cylinder, and slicing crosswise into thin strips using a sharp knife.
Toss with olive oil, diced ripe yellow and red tomatoes, red onions, and fresh mozzarella, heat gently, and toss with capellini.
Add torn Thai basil to pad thai, a noodle dish with shrimp, bean sprouts, and toasted peanuts.
Process together softened butter with chopped garlic and basil.
Spread on split Italian bread, wrap in foil, and bake to make garlic bread.
Category: Spices and Herbs
Sub Category: Herb