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BASIL VARIETIES ?

QUESTION:
Hi James
Do you know of any difference between “sweet” basil and regular? My husband swears there’s a difference, I have bought basil fresh at my farmer’s market (the West Side Market in Cleveland OH- it’s awesome!) and as a dried spice and he says neither is what he remembers as sweet basil. I’d appreciate an expert’s opinion.
Thanks!  Carole
 

ANSWER:
Hello Carole,

There are many varieties of basil, sweet basil (common basil) (Ocimum basilicum) has dark green leaves is the most common.  It has a spicy aroma with a sweet clove-like taste. Aside from the other varieties mentioned below, there are also several different cultivars of this basic, common variety of basil, each with slightly different aromas.

Bush or Dwarf basil (O. b. minimum) has a spicy lemon odor aroma and is slightly bitter. This is also very common as a pot herb.

The difference between what your husband remembers and what you have recently purchased may be the above two varieties.
(Dried basil (and most dried herbs) are very different in aroma and flavor then the fresh leaves.)
 

Some other varieties of basil:
• Large pale green lettuce-leafed basil (O. b. crispum)
• Lemon basil (O. b. americanum or O. b. citriodorum)
• Licorice or anise basil
• Opal and purple basil
• Also: Thai basil, East Indian basil, Puerto Rican basil, Cuban basil, Aussie sweet basil, Baja basil, Italian basil, etc.

Each has its own unique scent - fennel, tarragon, citron, gingerish, clove-mint, etc.

Here is an excellent reference on Basil and its different aromas/flavors and an explanation of the aroma components, including photos of the leaves of many varieties: www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/Ocim_bas.html

Chef James, FoodReference.com

 

 

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