Types Of Basil You Should Try In Your Cooking

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 summer garden in the South because it can tolerate high heat, so consider adding these plants to a container garden or raised bed. Here are a few varieties to look for and how to use them:

Basil Plant

Hector Sanchez

Genovese Basil

Also called sweet basil or sweet Genovese, this is the most common variety and what you'll find in those plastic packages at the supermarket. The oval-shaped leaves are about 2-3 inches long and have a strong aroma and peppery flavor. This is the classic choice for pesto, Caprese salad, and pizza.

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. The leaves hold up well in high-temperature cooking such as stir fries.

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

Purple Basil

Also called opal 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 and it is best eaten raw to enjoy the color.

Best for: Purple basil stands out in tomato salads like 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. Because of its lemony scent, this basil is wonderful in fish and seafood.

Best for: Seafood dishes, basil lemonade or tea, basil butter

Cinnamon Basil

Slightly spicy cinnamon basil contains the same compound as its namesake. This basil has contrasting red stems and pink blooms. Throw cinnamon basil into salads to punch up their flavor and color, or steep it in teas.

Best for: Jams, oils, vinegars, Mexican dishes

Greek Basil

This small basil plant has been used in Mediterranean cooking since the Middle Ages. The flavor is similar to sweet basil, with a stronger scent of cloves. Greek basil's small leaves make it just the right size for a garnish.

Best for: Meats, pastas, salads

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