Yay for basil season!
This year we've added some new varieties to the basil range. Here's the full selection (subject to availability), and some ideas on how to use each variety.
Also be sure to check out our tips on how to grow basil.
Genovese basil (normal basil)
This is the standard basil we all know and love! Fantastic for pesto, adding to salads, pizza, pasta, soups, and stews.
Pesto is a favourite, but the traditional recipe uses pine nuts, which are expensive. I use raw cashews instead. And for a vegan pesto, use nutritional yeast instead of parmesan. Pesto freezes well.
If you have an abundance of basil, and don't have the time or ingredients to make pesto, consider throwing the basil in a bag or container as-is and freeze it. Yes it goes soggy on defrosting, but it still tastes beautiful in pasta sauce and stews.
Basil is said to be high in antioxidants and may have anti-inflammatory properties. Also said to be good for digestion and cardiovascular health.
This has the exact same flavour as Genovese basil, but with a larger leaf. Great if growing space is at a premium and you want maximum basil in the space.
You can use giant basil in exactly the same way as you would the normal Genovese basil.
Note: Supplies may be limited, due to a seed shortage. If you're interested in this variety, consider purchasing it early on.
How cute is this basil! It has the same flavour as Genovese (normal) basil but with a much smaller leaf. So in culinary terms, you can use it in the exact same way.
The plant has a compact umbrella shape - consider using it for containers, window boxes, or patio planters. You could also put a pot on your outdoor table, and help yourself to it at meal times.
Greek basil has the same health properties as standard basil - including being good for digestion. So if you've over-indulged, consider picking and chewing on a sprig of basil as you walk off your meal round the garden!
Growing tip: snip the basil by cutting a stem part way up; that way it can regenerate from the leaf nodes and re-grow in a way that maintains the bushy shape.
As you may have guessed, lemon basil has a distinct citrus flavour, and is excellent with fish, prawns, or chicken. Or add it to a pasta dish, stir fry, or salad.
Lemon basil is often used in curries, soups and stir fries in Laos. The trick is to add the lemon basil at the end of cooking, just before serving, to preserve the delicate lemon flavour.
Lemon basil is best served fresh for maximum flavour, i.e. don't keep cut lemon basil in the fridge, and it probably doesn't preserve very well.
Have fun with this incredibly versatile herb.
It's my first year growing this variety of basil, and my experience so far is that it isn't as prone to slug attack as other varieties, so that's definitely another bonus!
Purple basil mix
Purple basil has a slightly more clove-like flavour than regular basil. Yes, you can use it for pesto, but the pesto will have quite a different colour than if you use traditional basil!
My favourite use for purple basil is adding it to a salad: it adds a beautiful pop of colour as well as flavour.
Most of my purple basil pots have some Genovese basil growing in them as well, so you can enjoy the best of both basil worlds.
Note that purple basil seed is in short supply this year, so if you're keen on a purple basil plant, get in early while I still have some.
Thai basil has an aniseed flavour - and as the name implies, it's often used in Thai cooking. Unlike normal basil, Thai basil retains its flavour better when cooked, so it's great to add to your stir fries and curries early in the cooking process.
Researching Thai basil recipes online, I found everything from pho, to Thai basil beer, Thai basil pesto, larb, pad kra pao gai, cocktails, summer rolls, and more!
Holy basil (Tulsi)
Tulsi, or holy basil, has a more peppery flavour and is used for its medicinal purposes more than its culinary uses.
Tulsi has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine, and is an adaptogen. Dr Axe lists its benefits as including:
- Fighting skin infections and acne
- Protecting against diabetes
- Helping combat cancer
- Balancing stress hormones
- Relieving fever
- Helping improve respiratory disorders
- Being a good source of Vitamin K
- Supporting dental care and oral health
- Relieving headaches
- Supporting eye health.
A simple way to use tulsi is as a tea: brew it from fresh or dried leaves. If you're using fresh leaves, chop them first. You can drink it hot or cold. As an iced tea, let it cool, add ice, and stevia or lemon.
You can also add tulsi to your bath water.
Next step: check out our basil growing tips →