Basil Varieties - What's the Difference?
There are more than 60 known basil varieties in existence today. A portion of these are readily available to the backyard vegetable gardener. These varieties vary greatly in taste, appearance and texture.
We are often asked about our favorite variety of basil. In our own garden, we typically grow 3 varieties every year - Lemon, Sweet and Genovese. We like the Lemon for flavoring drinks and desserts. We use the Genovese for pesto and drying, and the Sweet we usually use fresh in savory dishes.
Here is a list of some of the more common varieties, along with plant descriptions and use information.
- Boxwood Basil - a hearty basil variety that resembles a boxwood bush, developed in France, good heat tolerance, reaches 16 inches tall, great for pesto
Marseille - 12 inches tall, large, tender, sweet leaves, big basil flavor, good for pestos or seasoning, dries well
Summerlong - very prolific producer, plants reach 10 inches in height but produce as much as larger basil varieties, sweet basil taste, good for seasoning, drying or pesto, good all-around variety
Sweet Nufar Organic Hybrid - certified organic, sweet Italian type with strong flavors and large, tender leaves, good for pesto and seasoning, dries well, reaches 16 inches tall
Sweet Petra Organic - unique basil variety, large, dark purple/red leaves with perry winkle spikes, bushy plants reach 12 inches tall, slightly bitter basil flavor
Organic Cinnamon Basil - certified organic, medium-sized leaves have a unique basil taste and smell with a hint of cinnamon in both, good for sauces
Greek Miniature Basil - tiny, tender leaves on a dome-shaped plant, reaches 10 inches tall, good basil flavor, works well in salads, pesto and seasoning, a certified organic version is available
- Spicy Saber - this basil variety produces large, bright green, spikey leaves that resemble a dandelion leaf, slightly spicy basil taste, plant reaches 12 inches tall, good for seasoning meat and vegetables
- Purple Ruffles - unique purple variety, large, ruffled, purple leaves, very fragrant, strong basil flavor, reaches 18 inches tall, good for sauces and in salads
Green Bouquet - compact variety, small, tender leaves have good basil taste and fragrance, plant reaches 12 inches tall, good for seasoning, sauces, pesto or drying
Cardinal - unique variety with deep red flowers, smooth, medium-sized, bright green leaves, good basil taste with a hint of spice, good for sauces, salads and pesto, reaches 30 inches tall
Lemon Basil - unique, lemony basil taste and aroma, good for seasoning fish, poultry, vegetables or flavoring teas, reaches 18 inches tall, broad green leaves are tender, dries well, certified organic version also available
- Sweet Basil - classic and best known variety of basil, mild and sweet basil taste, medium-sized leaves are tender and aromatic, good all-around taste, use in sauces, pesto, seasonings, etc... dries well, 18 inches tall, certified organic version also available
Pesto Perpetuo Basil - unique leaves are light green with dark green swatches and white edges, sweet basil taste, reaches 18 inches tall, good for drying, seasoning and pesto
Genovese - very large tender leaves, Italian basil variety, best for pesto but also dries well, plant reaches 24 inches tall, very aromatic, strong basil taste, certified organic version is available
Lime Basil - sweet basil taste with a hint of citrus flavor, plants reach 24 inches tall, tender bright green leaves, good for sauces, seasonings and flavoring teas
Thai Siam Queen - ornamental looking plants reach 24 inches, very tender dark green leaves, strong basil flavor, very aromatic with a hint of licorice, good for sauces and seasonings
- Green Ruffles - large, thick green leaves with jagged edges, strong basil flavor, good in sauces and pesto, plants reach 24 inches tall
Basil Plenty - high yields of large, tender leaves, good all-around basil flavor, very disease resistant, good for pesto, sauces and seasonings, dries well, plants reach 16 inches tall
Spicy Globe - European variety, very small tender leaves, similar in taste to sweet basil, good for pesto, sauces and seasonings, plants reach 12 inches tall
Click here to learn about planting basil
Click here to learn about fertilizing and watering basil plants
Click here for information about harvesting basil
Click here for some of our favorite basil recipes
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