Basil, Ocimum basilicum, is a member of the Lamiaceaefamily (the mint family) and is closely related to lavender, marjoram, oregano, thyme and spearmint. There are numerous varieties of basil and in this country the most commonly used basil is referred to as “sweet basil” which is typically grown in Mediterranean countries. The name “sweet basil” is a bit misleading, as Thai basil has much more of a sweet quality.
Sweet basil is the type found in Italian dishes, is most commonly used fresh and typically is added towards the end of the cooking process, as cooking quickly dissipates the herb’s distinctive flavor.
Sweet basil has .5% to 1.1% essential oil, primarily linalool (40%) and methyl chavicol (25%). The strong clove scent of sweet basil is derived from eugenol which is the same chemical found in the spice cloves. In addition, soil, climate and time of harvest will impact not only the amount, but also the composition of the essential oil of that particular harvest.
Basil is called habaq, reehan (Arabic), yu xiang ca (Mandarin), basilie/basilic commun (French), basilikum (German), barbar (Hindi), bajiru (Japanese), manjericao (Portuguese), bazilik (Russian) and albahaca, alfabega (Spanish). Is also referred to as herb royale and great basil.