Basil is grown around the world in many flavors (nearly 160 species), the most common being sweet or Mediterranean basil. This by itself has varieties based on shape and size of leaves, and flavor. Leaves are thin and elongated or rounded; succulent and large; smooth-edged or serrated; dark-green, purple, or variegated.
The plant itself can vary from about 20 cm to 91 cm in height in ideal growing conditions. The stems are square, tough and grooved. The leaves vary in length from 30 to 100 mm and having white long stamen flowers. This is a popular type of basil used for cooking. Other basil fragrances include cinnamon, anise and licorice.
Lemon Basil is a smaller plant with white flowers, smaller leaves, and a characteristic lemony fragrance.
Bush basil has small leaves from 10mm to 15 mm long. This herb grows to a height of around 150 mm high. The leaves of the basil do not have that much flavor, and also the aroma is not that pungent.
There are 2 types of purple basil -- one with serrated leaves called purple ruffle and the smoother dark opal basil that is usually used to decorate a room or home. However, both these types have a mild flavor that is rather pleasing, and hence, they can be used as garnish.
Hairy basil or Thai basil has slim leaves that are oval in shape. The edges of the leaves are serrated and they have a camphorous aroma. Their seeds do not have any distinct flavor, and when soaked in water, the seeds swell up and turn gelatinous. However, the seeds are used in making Indian and other Asian sweets and sweet drinks. They are also used to suppress the appetite.
Holy basil grows quite ubiquitous in India. The plant has mauve pink flowers. This type of basil is a perennial and it has a mild lemon fragrance.
As the name suggests, cinnamon basil has the fragrance of cinnamon. In addition, its flower heads are long and erect. Similarly, the camphor basil has a camphor-like fragrance and is mainly used for decoration purposes.
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