Sunday, November 1, 2009
Thai Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum Linn.)
Thai Basil is also know as Sweet Basil or Asian Basil and the Thai name is bai horapa Theses tropical varieties of basil are referred to as "Thai Basil" are slightly sweeter in flavor and are more stable when cooked than the Mediterranean basil. The leaves of Thai basil are deep green, smaller than those of Western basil, and arranged on purple-hued stems. The flowers, which are edible as well, are red-purple and licorice flavored. The flowers of Thai basil form in a cluster, not on a spike, unlike those of common basil. The flowers make an attractive plate garnish or colorful addition to green salads.
Thai basil likes well-drained soil. It is sensitive to frost and should not be planted outside until both day- and nighttime temperatures are fixed above 50 degrees F (10 degrees C). Although it will grow happily in full sun, it requires only 4 to 6 hours of sunlight a day, and will do fine in filtered or indirect light. It forms a leafy little bush, approximately 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 cm) both tall and wide. Keep the flower buds nipped off to keep the plant putting energy into the leaves and not the flowers. Thai Sweet Basil is popular among home gardeners, can be started from seed, and does very well as a container plant. Indoors, place it in or near a sunny window, make sure its soil is moist but not soggy, and provide a pot large enough so that the plant does not become root-bound.
When harvesting Thai basil, don’t remove single leaves as you need them. Pinch off the top section of a stem, stopping just at the intersection where two leaves emerge. This will prompt the plant to produce new growth branching off from the place where you removed the stem. Removing leaves individually will not achieve the same result. Rinse the leaves in cool water to remove dirt or grit and pat dry between paper towels before use.
Thai basil is considerably stronger in flavor than Mediterranean basil, so make adjustments to the amount used if substituting one for the other. Use Thai basil for Thai, Indian, and Italian recipes. Fresh, it can be added to salads, and either the fresh or dried forms can be used to flavor soups, pasta, and vegetable dishes.