It may not be well known, but basil is part of the mint family, or family Lamiaceae. The most common type used in cooking is sweet basil, which has been used for thousand of years in Italian dishes. There is almost no limit to making great dishes using basil when there is 150 different varieties.
Here are some of the most popular and not so widely known types of basil that you can grow in your garden and add to any dish when cooking.
African blue is one of the most cold tolerant types of basil. It has a strong, aromatic scent of camphor. The leaves of a young African blue basil plant are purple and turn green as the plant matures.
Cinnamon basil, not surprisingly, has a strong scent of cinnamon, caused by a chemical called cinnamate, which gives cinnamon its flavor. The leaves of a mature plant are small to medium in size. Cinnamon basil is commonly used in hot drinks and added to fruits.
Genovese is one of the popular types of basil, and is often used to make pesto. In Italy, this type of basil 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, 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.
Lemon basil is a hybrid of basil and African basil, and is typically grown in south Asia and north Africa. A typical lemon basil plant will grow to be 8 to 15 inches tall and have narrow leaves. Popular for its strong, lemon scent, lemon basil is most often used in dishes in Indonesia, Thailand, and Laos.
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.
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.
Thai basil, used commonly in Thai and Vietnamese cuisines, has a flavor of licorice and mint. It has small green leaves and purple stems. Thai basil goes great with seafood, chicken, pork, and in curry sauces.
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.
Sweet basil 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.