Originating in India, basil is used in European and South East Asian cooking. There are more than 40 varieties of basil. Commercially the main varieties are sweet basil and the small more compact milder green basil, but these are not sold by variety. In addition there are the Asian varieties Thai basil and holy basil. Both have green leaves with a purple underside and tips and purple flowers. Holy basil has bigger leaves than Thai basil. Both have an aniseed fragrance and flavour.
Selection and Storage
Choose fresh looking basil with unmarked leaves. Avoid blackened, wilted leaves. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for a few days.
Sweet basil, Thai basil and holy basil are available all year round. Green basil is available in the summer months.
Basil should be torn not chopped as the leaves bruise easily. Thai and Holy basil are used frequently in Thai and Vietnamese cooking and the leaves are generally used whole such as in pho. Basil is not generally cooked as the leaves can be become slimy and should be added at the end of cooking or used fresh in salads. Basil is great with tomatoes, olive oil, lamb, eggplants, zucchini, pine nuts and parmesan (especially in pesto), prawns and scallops.