Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Thai Basil

It's basil with a twist of licorice and clove. Thai basil adds a punch of flavor to asian food, soups, pastas and more. Ocimum basilicum var. thyrsiflora is a member of the mint family and grows as a rounded plant 1 to 1 1/2 ft tall and wide. 
The leaves have a strong basil and anise flavor which is stable at higher temperatures than sweet basil, so unlike sweet basil, it does not lose its flavor when cooked at higher temperatures.  

The leaves of Thai basil are smaller than sweet basil as seen in this photo.
Thai basil leaf (top)
Sweet basil leaf (bottom)
The plant is more compact than sweet basil and is beautiful with dark green foliage set off by deep maroon purple stems and seed pods.
Tiny lavender and white flowers bloom without notice as they are indeed tiny, but a closer look reveals the delicate crown.
The flowers are too small to appreciate with my middle aged eyes, so I was fascinated to see the magnified photos.
Stems grow with crowns of flowers which bloom in succession from base to tip.
The ombre effect on this stem is beautiful.
You can see the small black seeds forming in these pods.
Thai basil prefers full sun and well drained, moist soil. In my Southern California garden, summer temperatures can be scorching so mine is planted where it gets some afternoon shade and it is thriving.
I have read that it can be propagated from cuttings. Mine was purchased in a 4 inch pot. I've collected some seeds and will try them for my first time next spring.

To promote a bushy habit (and therefore, more leaves) pinch it often. This means that you cut the stems right above the place where the leaves come off the stem. This is where buds are forming and once the stem is cut, the leaves will sprout creating 2 side branches. If you keep removing the seed pods, it will continue to produce leaves. As you can see from the photos I have not been good about dead heading my plant, it just gets pinched when I need some leaves for cooking.

Thai basil is most often used fresh in recipes as opposed to dried. It can be frozen as well. It can be cut back to 6 inches tall if you chose to harvest the leaves all at one time. 

Living in this climate I am fortunate to have herbs live through the winter so hopefully I will be able to enjoy my fresh Thai basil throughout the year.

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