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Basil Herbs: 8 unique and Flavorful Varieties To Choose From

Basil Herbs: 8 unique and Flavorful Varieties To Choose From

You've probably eaten a lot of basil herbs in your life, perhaps on pasta or pizza. But did you know that there are multiple varieties of basil herbs, each with their own benefits and uses? Take a look at these eight types of basil herbs and how you can use them in your day-to-day life, whether as a recipe or a remedy.

Dark Opal Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

Dark opal basil is a common plant known for its sweetness developed in the 1960s. Though its taste is sweet and delicious, it is actually used more for decorative appeal than culinary appeal. Its dark purple leaves are beautiful and endearing to the eye, which has led to its popularity as a garnish. There are no known medicinal properties of this particular type of basil, but like all herbs, its nutritional content is beneficial to the body overall.

Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum)

What makes this basil so holy? Since ancient times, the Hindu religion has declared this variety of herb one of its sacred plants, most likely because of its various medicinal properties like insect repellent, ringworm lotion, and upset stomach relief. Because of this, you'll often find it in Indian medicine or planted around religious sites in India.

Besides being holy, it's also wholesome. Holy basil adds a spicy, peppery flavor to any dish, while also providing health benefits through its many vitamins and nutrients. Most commonly, it is found in stir fry and soup. All parts of the plant are edible, including the stem, leaf, and root.

Italian Large Leaf Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

When you think of basil, this is probably what you think of. Italian large leaf basil includes those characteristically thick green leaves that have an aromatic smell and a very distinct taste. This variety of basil is most commonly used in the making of pesto and other Italian staples.

If you are starting a garden at home, this is a great plant to try. Not only does it have many applications, but it is also relatively simple to grow, common to purchase, and not too big (about 15 inches tall and 12 inches wide at full size).

Lemon Basil (Ocimum basillicum citriodorum)

Lemon basil gets its name from its strong citrus smell. Often times, people use this lemony herb in curry or stir fry. It is one of the more popular herbs to buy. If you are looking for it in the grocery store or farmer's market, look for bright green, pointed leaves; the leaves are a very light shade of green compared to other types of basil. Even if you don't prefer the lemony taste, having one or two of these aromatic plants in your home can give it a naturally fresh smell.

Lime Basil (Ocimum x citriodorum)

Perfect for many types of cooking, lime basil is also a popular herb. In terms of meat, it works well with both fish and chicken, giving them a limey flavor. You could also put it into certain types of drinks. One great recipe is to use lime basil in your margaritas for a bit of an extra tangy flavor, while still keeping the drink relatively healthy. Teas are another great place to add a bit of lime basil for a citrus taste.

Spicy Globe Basil (ocimum basilicum minimum)

As the name implies, this herb is perfect to add a spicy flavor to your dishes. Often times, it is used in sauces and dressings to add a bit more zest. When you are growing spicy globe basil, don't expect the plant to get too big; the leaves on this variety are very small, which is fitting because you will only want to cook with this strong flavor in tiny doses.

The leaves grow together in little clumps that look almost like a bush.

Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

The classic, sweet basil goes well with a wide variety of dishes from all corners of the globe. A lesser-known property of this plant is that it has many medicinal uses. Basil is great for your stomach, and can resolve issues like intestinal gas or lost appetite.

Thai Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

Last but not least, Thai basil is a variety of the herb that has pointed green leaves and beautiful purple flowers. It has a spicy anise taste that goes well with many Asian foods as a garnish or in a sauce. In fact, its flavor is so rich that you could even eat it raw or simply toss it in a salad. The flavor is similar to holy basil, but is more sweet and less medicinal.

With all of these types of basil herbs, you are bound to find the flavors that appeal to you. Try your hand at cultivating some of your favorite varieties and take full advantage of the medicinal and culinary benefits.

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