Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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basil an aromatic herb in the genus Ocimum of which there are several species and numerous horticultural varieties.

The best known to cooks is Ocimum basilicum, native to India, SE Asia, and NE Africa, and very commonly used in the Mediterranean countries. This is an annual plant, typically reaching a height of 60 cm (2'). O. basilicum var minimum is a small-leafed species, the most perfumed of all, called Nano verde (green dwarf) by seedsmen in Italy. O. basilicum var citriodorum is a lemon-scented basil; and O. basilicum var purpurascens is purple leafed. These varieties are sometimes listed as cultivars. Another variety of importance to Thai cooking and sold widely in the USA and Australia as ‘Thai basil’ is also called Liquorice basil and in Thailand bai horapa.