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KnowYourEdibles#2 - Basils

November 12, 2015 QING LI

Hello, gardeners!


Have you ever been confused and unsure about what type of basil to grow? From over 40 known varieties to choose, this might be the most challenging step in growing this herb. Well, this week’s post aims to provide you with some guide in taking this first step! Knowing the different varieties of basil and what each variety is used for will enable you to make the appropriate decision for that first step.


Basil is one of the easiest herbs you can grow and can be put to various culinary uses. Like many other herbs and vegetables, they prefer full sun (at least six hours a day) and evenly moist, well-drained soil. You can grow them in your garden, in small pots/containers along your corridor or even perched indoors on a windowsill. Most types of basil grow to about 18-24 inches tall and form a bushy appearance as the leaves are pinched for use.
 
Varieties of Basils & Their Usage
Here, we will introduce to you some varieties of basil and their respective flavours as well as how each variety can be used.

Italian Large Leaf Basil

Italian Large Leaf Basil is a common type of basil which is sweet to taste and typically used for making Italian dishes, pesto and flavouring vegetables, poultry and fish. It is also perfect as a replacement for lettuce on sandwiches, and known to have soothing effects on the stomach.


Italian Basil


Sweet Basil

It is said that no garden is complete without Sweet Basil’s light green foliage and sweet, spicy aroma, just as no Italian dish is complete without its pungent flavour. This basil cultivar is the best choice for Italian sauces, soups and for making pesto. Plants range from 14 to 30 inches tall and are prolific in hot, sunny locations.

*Harvest the top four leaves often to keep the plant growing and sweetly flavored.


Sweet Basil

 


Thai Basil

Called Ho-ra-pa in Thai, this Asian variety of basil has a distinct, spicy, anise-clove flavor, quite unlike common sweet basil. Thai basil is a must-have addition to Asian cuisine such as Thai green and red curries, and famous Taiwanese three-cup chicken dish. It also makes a nice addition to the herb garden for fragrance and color. Thai basil has purple stems and blooms with green leaves reaching 12 to 16 inches tall.


Thai Basil

 


Holy Basil

A gourmet basil which is more pungent and has a hint of mint and cloves, Holy basil makes the most wonderful tasting herbal tea full of Vitamin B. Holy basil is also referred to as Sacred basil or Tulsi as it is a revered plant in the Hindu religion. It is a beautiful plant in the garden with mottled green and purple leaves and grows to about 12 to 14 inches tall.


*Cut Holy Basil back often and pinch off flowers to promote bushier growth.


Holy Basil


Cinnamon Basil

Also called Mexican spice basil, this basil variety has a delightful fragrance and spicy essence, making it a good fit for heartier dishes. A beautiful, 25- to 30-inch-tall plant with dark-purple stems and flowers accented with small, glossy leaves, it can be used in fruit salads and garnishes.


Cinnamon Basil

 


Lemon Basil

Lemon basil’s delicate citrusy tang is perfect for infusing vinegars and in seafood dishes. This variety can also be used in teas, soups and even potpurri! A sprig of Lemon basil in a glass of iced tea is particularly delightful on a hot day. The 20- to 24-inch plants are light green with white flowers and 2½-inch-long leaves.


Lemon Basil

 

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General Tip to grow basil:
Remove flowers when they begin to form to keep plants compact and to concentrate flavour in the leaves.
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Health benefits of Basil

Apart from the ways that basil is used in different cuisines, the numerous health benefits of this herb provide another reason for you to start growing and using it today!  Some of the health benefits include:

  • Basil leaves hold many notable plant-derived chemical compounds that are known to have disease preventing and health promoting properties.
  • The herb is very low in calories and contains no cholesterol.
  • Basil leaves compose of several health benefiting essential oils such aseugenol, citronellol, linalool, citral, limonene and  These compounds are known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.
  • Basil contains exceptionally high levels ofbeta-carotene, vitamin A, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zea-xanthin. These compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and various disease processes.
  • Basil also has Zea-xanthin, a yellow flavonoid carotenoid compound, which when selectively absorbed into the retinal macula lutea, is found to filter harmful UV rays from reaching the retina.
  • Vitamin K in basil is essential for production of clotting factors in the blood and plays a vital role in the bone strengthening and mineralization.
  • Basil also contains a good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, copper, and magnesium, and is an excellent source of iron. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids, which helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme,superoxide dismutase.
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For specific recipes involving the use of some of these varieties of basil, tune in to next week’s post! Have a good week ahead.


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