Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is unusual among the many culinary herbs in the mint family (Lamiaceae=Labiateae) in that it is thought to have its origins in India. This plant has been cultivated in India and the Middle East since ancient times and was known to the Greeks and Romans. In addition to its very familiar uses such as in tomato-based sauces and salads, it is an ingredient in the liqueur chartreuse.
Sweet Basil is an erect annual, up to 35 cm in height, with ovate, toothed or entire, leaves which are up to 8 cm in length. The flowers are white or purple-tinged, around 1 cm long, and borne in simple terminal racemes. Some varieties have partly red or entirely purple leaves.
(Vaughan and Geissler 1997)
A great diversity of Sweet Basil varieties have been developed (see Simon et al.1999). Several aroma compounds can be found in different chemotypes of basil, including citral, eugenol, University of Vermont Extension provides links to a number of useful sources on Basil production.
- Simon, J.E., M.R. Morales, W.B. Phippen, R.F. Vieira, and Z. Hao. 1999. Basil: A source of aroma compounds and a popular culinary and ornamental herb. pp. 499–505. In: J. Janick (ed.), Perspectives on new crops and new uses. ASHS Press, Alexandria, VA.
- Vaughan, J.G. and C.A. Geissler. 1997. The New Oxford Book of Food Plants (revised and updated edition). Oxford University Press, New York.
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