The 4 Types of Basil You Should Know

Because you can never have enough basil this time of year.

Although the offerings at most grocery stores might make you think otherwise, there is more than one variety of fresh basil. Take a look at your local farmers' market or garden store and you'll discover a whole new world of flavor and fragrance this summer. Basil is also easy to grow in the South because it can tolerate high heat, so consider adding these plants to a container garden or raised bed. Here are four varieties to look for:

Genovese Basil

Also called Sweet Basil or Sweet Genovese, Genovese Basil is the most common variety and what you'll find in those plastic packages at the supermarket. The oval-shaped leaves are about two to three inches long and have a strong aroma and peppery flavor.

Best for: Pesto and pasta dishes, basil oil, basil sugar

Thai Basil

This plant has small, pointy leaves and purple flowers and stems. Thai basil leaves have a spicy licorice flavor that stands out in any dish.

Best for: Thai stir-fries or curries, Vietnamese noodle dishes

Opal Basil

Also called Purple Basil, a dramatic dark hue sets this basil plant apart from the rest. The entire plant is eggplant-colored, including the flowers, stems, and large leaves. Their flavor and fragrance is a little more subtle than Genovese Basil, the classic basil familiar to most people.

Best for: Opal Basil stands out in tomato salads like a Caprese or panzanella

Lemon Basil

True to its name, Lemon Basil has a noticeable citrus flavor and scent intermingled with basil's traditional clove and anise notes. Mrs. Burns' Lemon Basil is a popular variety of the plant because of its larger leaves.

Best for: Seafood dishes, basil lemonade, basil butter

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