Back 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.
Sweet 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.