There are more than 60 types of basil, all members of the mint family. Here are three you’re most likely to see at gourmet groceries, farmers’ markets, and nurseries.
- Purple Opal (top): Its large, dark purple leaves offer mildly spicy hints of clove, licorice, mint, and cinnamon. Best uses: Its complexity shines in salads, baked goods, and beverages.
- Thai (bottom right): Small, pointed leaves with serrated edges have peppery anise flavor. Best uses: A hint of spicy heat makes this basil at home in Asian dishes.
- Sweet Italian (left): This selection (aka Sweet Genovese) is the most common variety of basil, known for its licorice-clove flavor. Best uses: Its clean, bright flavor makes it an ideal match for fresh tomatoes, or use it in Italian or Thai dishes.