A Round of Applause for Basil

July 7, 2011

By Megan Kian

On the fourth of July as I was ready to dig into the feast before me, my nose picked up on the scent of an earthy mint that was being emitted from the leaves of basil resting on top of freshly cut mozzarella. Not only is basil one highly aromatic herb and packed with flavor, but it also provides several nutritional benefits. Basil carries a number of B vitamins, which play a role in the body’s cell metabolism and energy production. Basil also contains important minerals, including magnesium, iron, and calcium. Last and definitely not least, basil contains volatile oils that aid in fighting against bacteria and inflammation.

Basil isn’t just that smooth green leaf that you sometimes find as a garnish. It comes in several varieties, including some that are characterized by a purple color rather than green. If you’re looking to become a basil connoisseur or are just curious what to use the next time you cook, here is a list of the most common types of basil that are used in the kitchen:

Sweet basil – Sweet basil is by far the most commonly used and most popular type of basil. It is very prominent in Italian dishes such as on pizzas, used in salads, or prepared to create different sauces, including pesto.

Thai basil – As the name indicates Thai basil is mostly found in Thai or Vietnamese dishes. This type of basil is characterized by a licorice and mint flavor.

Lemon basil – It releases a very lemony scent and is found in dishes native to Thailand, Indonesia, and Laos.

Cinnamon basil – Due to the chemical cinnamate found in this particular type of basil, a strong cinnamon odor and taste can be expected from this basil. It is used mostly in hot drinks and added to fruits for a sweeter flavor. Cinnamon basil is recognizable by its purple flowers.

Basil is a versatile herb; if you’re looking for a way to incorporate basil into one of your meals try a mozzarella salad topped with basil or a homemade pesto sauce!

Do you like basil? How do you use basil in your kitchen?

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  1. I wrap whole leaves (and whole mint leaves) into spring rolls. Except I call then Wisconsin summer rolls. I switch out the rice noodles with blanched skinny green beans.

    1. That sounds so good! What else do you put in them? Do you wrap them in rice paper? Would love a recipe for that!