Choosing Basil Varieties

From sweet basil to 'Dark Opal', this herb is available in many flavorful and colorful varieties.

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Sweet Basil

Ocimum basilicum, sweet basil, is used and harvested before flowering. The most used parts are the mature leaves. It is mostly cultivated for use as a spice in cooking and is associated with tomato dishes, eggs, fish and Italian food.

'Dark Opal'

Ocimum basilicum var. purpurascens ‘Dark Opal’ has purple, oval-shaped, spicy-scented leaves. In the summer it produces clusters of small pink flowers.

Thai Basil

O. basilicum ‘Horapha Nanum’, or Thai basil, is a compact plant with narrow, deeply veined, aniseed-scented leaves that are widely used in Thai cooking.

'Well Sweep Purple Miniature'

O. basilicum ‘Well Sweep Purple Miniature’ is a diminutive type of purple basil that forms a low mound. It has great tasting, green-edged, tapering leaves.


O. basilicum ‘Minette’ is a compact basil that forms an attractive rounded mound in a small container. The leaves have a deliciously spicy flavor.

Cinnamon Basil

Cinnamon basil has reddish stems, purple flowers, and small to medium sized dark green leaves. The leaves have a cinnamon like taste and odor. Some garden pests do not like the smell of it, so gardeners grow it just to keep bugs out of their gardens.

Grow it on a Windowsill

Basil's sweet, aniseed-flavored leaves grow well from seed in a warm spot or on a windowsill. Try 'Sweet Genovese' (left) or 'Purple Delight' (right) for dark leaves.

'Red Rubin'

'Red Rubin' is a beautiful red-leaf basil that grows and tastes like sweet Italian but has purplish, red leaves. It's great for adding color to salads or vinegars.

'Purple Ruffles'

Ocimum basilicum 'Purple Ruffles' looks lovely in containers. It's also known as tropical basil.

'Siam Queen'

Give basil varieties, such as Ocimum basilicum 'Siam Queen', plenty of sun. Grow basil in containers near your kitchen or grill so they're close at hand when you're cooking.

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