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Basil 101

Everything you need to know about basil, including how to grow it, store it, and what the different varieties of basil are!

Close up photo of basil leaves

Guys, I’ve made two major discoveries recently. #1 was yesterday, when the tulip-man and I discovered the Pokemon capital of the Netherlands. Have you ever seen 500 people on their phones, stampeding at word of an Arcanine? Because I have, and it’s gold.

Discovery #2 was last week, when I discovered that basil and blackberries make a killer combo (and worked it into a smoothie for the Eatmail!) It’s been a week of discoveries to say the least, and we’re just getting started. The next two week are going to be all about basil! We have some recipes that I’m really excited about coming up, but first, let’s all learn a bit.

Store fresh basil leaves in glass of water

Varieties of basil

  • Sweet: If you’re from North America or Europe, you’re probably used to seeing this variety. It’s very common in Italian dishes, and sometimes goes by “Genovese Basil”, in tribute to Genoa, the birthplace of pesto.
  • Thai Sweet: This variety is pretty distinct from Sweet Basil, with strong and spicy hints of anise (licorice). To spot this one in the grocery, look for the purple stems!
  • Holy (or Hot): Originally from India and Southeast Asia, this variety has a spicy clove taste, and is often used to treat common colds and coughs. In Thailand, it’s used in Hot Basil Stir Fry, a foolproof dish I found on just about every menu when I was there!
  • Lemon: Another variety of Southeast Asian descent, this one packs a pop of lemon.

How to grow basil

Whatever the opposite is of having a “green thumb”, I have that. And even with my lack in ability to keep any greenery alive, basil always persists. I’m a huge advocate for growing basil at home. With just a snip you have a fresh, zesty addition to your meal!

  • It’s happy when: it gets at least 6 hours of sunlight, it isn’t cold (bring it inside/cover if it’s cold or windy), it gets water when soil is dry to the touch, it has about 12 inches of room to grow.
  • To harvest: pick as you need it, snipping just above the point where two leaves meet. If you’re not going to eat the flowers, pick them off so your basil can focus its growing powers on making leaves.
Close up photo of basil leaf

How to store basil

If you have basil stems that have been snipped from the plant, set them in a glass of water, like you would flowers, and keep at room temperature until ready to use. If you need to store them for longer than a few days, loosely put a plastic bag over the plant.

To keep your basil for months, chop it finely by hand or with a food processor, then mix it with just a touch of olive oil. Spoon into an ice cube tray and freeze, then transfer to a freezer-safe container. When you need it for a heated dish, like soup or stir fry, just pop a cube out and throw it in!

Our Favorite Basil Recipes to Try

Raspberry Basil Nice Cream
Peach Caprese with Basil Lime Drizzle
Avocado Strawberry Basil Grilled Cheese
Grilled Watermelon Salad with Basil and Feta

Store fresh basil leaves in glass of water

Hi, I’m Sarah!

Showing you how to make easy vegetarian recipes, one ingredient at a time. Read more

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