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Sep 29, 2008 03:41 PM

Thai Basil - how can I tell?

I bought a bunch of new herbs recently - one of them being labeled "Thai Basil." I am wondering if it is this since there is no purple to it. Does the purple come later in the plant's life?

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  1. Does it have purple stems?

    I think that the purple in the leaves does come later but I think the only way to tell is to taste it if it has the slight licorice/anise flavour then it probably is thai basil.

    1. I think thai basil has a longer leaf and the italian type has a kind of rounded puffy looking leaf, and the texture is somewhat different, I don't know if you'd be able to tell from that alone though, but yes taste it to make sure.

      1. There usually some purple on them (see attached) and it should have a liquorice smell to it. The basil that is used in Persian cooking is pretty similar in appearance, but not entirely in taste.

        2 Replies
        1. re: MaxCaviar

          i agree the way to tell is definitely the licorice flavour. I must admit I never noticed the purple. Superb with prawns :-) but it can ruin / overpower a dish if not handled properly.

          1. re: Bibulous

            I've heard of but don't know anything about the Persian basil but agree that "Thai"/SE Asian basil inevitably has that distinctive "licorice" taste though not flavor (I think I recall seeing something that might've been Persian basil with a note that it was anise-like fwtw). I have seen quite a few different cultivars of Thai basil and they do vary in foliage color. On the other hand, there is also "holy basil" which is mostly grown as a symbolic and/or ornamental plant in Thailand, but I've heard is sometimes used in food. That's usually or always bright green and has a very different, sweet fragrance. I have a plant of it but have never seen it for sale as a cooking ingredient so it's probably know what the OP has but it's a not-inconceivable possibility...

        2. The dark purple basil is something else. It is milder and not the flavor you would want from Thai basil.

          Thai basil will have some purple tinge around the immature leaves and flower buds at the apical tip, but not always. The leaves are more slender and elongated than sweet basil and there should be a noticeable licorice aroma.

          1. I never heard of Thai basil being purple. It's always green, just a different shape and flavor than the other basil.