Holy basil and sweet basil

casaveneracion.com Holy basilBack in the old house, four kinds of basil grew in my garden — lemon basil, holy basil, sweet basil and Thai basil. The lemon basil and sweet basil did not thrive, the Thai basil died even earlier, but the holy basil grew and thrived. In fact, it thrived so well that within a few months, I was making cuttings and replanting them and they thrived just as well as the mother plant. It was so sturdy that after we uprooted and replanted it after we moved houses, it never gave me cause for concern. It is bushier than ever and it provides me with all the leaves that I need for cooking.

What is holy basil? The scientific name is Ocimum tenuiflorum. It has dark green and purple leaves with jagged edges, the mature branches are woody and hairy, and the flowers are light purple. That’s holy basil in the photo above.

casaveneracion.com Sweet basilSweet basil or Ocimum basilicum, on the other hand, is what we find in Italian dishes. The leaves are light green, silky and rather large. They are either eaten raw or, when used as a cooking ingredient, added towards the end because basil loses its flavor fast when subjected to heat.

I bought two small pots of sweet basil before Christmas and I am happy to report that they have grown and seem to be thriving beautifully. Today was the first time I picked their leaves for the pasta putanesca dinner that I prepared and the recipe for which I will be posting in a while.


  1. says

    Connie, where did you buy your sweet basil plant? Meron ba nyan sa Sumulong Highway (ie. malapit sa min)?

    My sis and I tried planting parsley (from store-brought seeds), so far they’re growing but they’re still seedlings (their fate is unknown at the moment hehe).

    Is it possible to just have the basil planted on a pot? Having it on the ground like yours will just make it a temptation to my dogs (they like having “salads”). Have you tried sa pot lang? Did it thrive parin?

  2. A says

    Miss Connie, may I please ask: what’s the difference in terms of flavour/aroma between sweet and holy basil? If I had to choose between the two, what would you suggest?

    Also, if I plant lemon basil, will the lemon aroma tamper/change the flavor of whatever dishes I make?

    Finally, how much are the seedlings? Also, are they available the whole year? I’m so sorry for asking too many questions, but you seem to be so knowledgeable about these things…

    Thank you!

    • says

      Holy basil is more piquant than sweet basil which in comparison is mild. Lemon basil is added to food precisely to enhance the flavor and aroma.

      Seedling at 3 pots/P100. Yes, available all year round.

  3. says

    I have an interesting story to share, if you don’t mind.

    A coworker gave me a pot of sweet basil. I kept it around my cubicle until I could bring it home that day. My Indian coworker can’t help but notice the smell of the plant. After a few hours, he finally remembers and he tells me (excitedly) that the smell reminds him of Holy Basil which, apparently, is holy in India. They do not cook with it but it’s traditional for every woman in the household to walk around the Holy Basil every morning while doing some prayer or ritual.

    Interesting story, eh?

    • says

      Wow, interesting indeed. But I’m curious about not cooking with it since Indian curries often include basil among the ingredients and holy basil is endemic to the region.

      • Ralph says

        Dear Miss Connie:

        i am intending to build a small garden containing herbs…mainly Holy Basil..i think i can buy the seeds online..can you give me some instructions about where should i implant the seeds?do they love suny places or dark places?
        Also after they grow..can i get seeds from the original plants..do i need more seeds to buy after i use the leaves of the original plants.

        Thanks alot


  4. Patrick Garcia says

    Dear Ma’am Connie,

    Great blog!!

    I’m an agriculturist and a researcher at the Int’l Rice Research Institute. I’m currently studying the effect of a chemical abundantly found in Purple Holy Basils which can repel rice insect pests.

    Do you happen to know where can I buy or find seeds of the said plant here in the Phils? I would really appreciate your reply. I’ve searched many herbal shops and unfortunately they don’t know where to find these seeds. Here’s my e-mail just in case: charlepatrick_garcia@yahoo.com.ph

    Thank you Ma’am Connie. God bless you!

    • says

      I thought you were the actor hehehe

      I don’t know about seeds but since we buy seedlings from Manila Seedling Bank, I think it’s safe to say that you can get useful information from them.

      • says

        Connie, thanks for going into so much detail about holy basil. I have just heard it being mentioned on a Gordon Ramsay cookery program so thought I would find out more about it as I love the “normal” basil we get in the supermarket.