What does basil look like? This question will ignite your curiosity as you’ve heard of it as a wide-reaching element in global cuisine, notably if you plan to grow your basil or use it in your cooking.
In this article, I’ll take a closer look at the physical characteristics of basil and explore the different types of this culinary herb. So, read on to dig deeper into how to identify it.
What Does Basil Look Like? – General Outlook
What does fresh basil look like? Basil herb plant has some particular signatures, such as the tap root system, square, hairy texture stems, purple to scarlet to white to pinkish-lavender flowers, true leaves growing in pairs on the stem’s sides, and a height ranging from 25 to 30 inches.
Tap Root System
What does basil plant look like? First, let’s discuss its root system. Basil has a central or dominant root, or so-called tap root, where the plant’s other roots branch outward.
The basil plants’ tap root stands out as it is significantly thicker than ever and develops almost straight down.
Stems of a basil plant are square and have a slightly hairy texture.
Their squareness becomes more evident in fully-grown plants. You can also feel the seedling’s stem by touching its harsh edges or running your fingers around it.
Even so, its stems are woody near the ground, taking on a yellowish-brown hue like the plant types with underground roots. And sometimes, they change color and thin down toward the plant’s top.
The stems of basil plants can range in color from one cultivar or species to another. Thai basil and dark opal basil stem sections can be purple, yet those of common sweet basil are always green.
What does basil leaves look like? Its leaves grow in pairs on the stem’s sides. When a new leaf set emerges, it does so at a right angle to the old pair, filling out all sides of the stem.
Even on the same basil, the leaves can pop up with various greens or dark purple shades with different colors in between.
For instance, sweet basil, also known as Genovese basil or Italian basil, has glossy, deep green leaves reminiscent of mint.
They’re elongated ovals with a pointed tip at the end furthest from the stem and a puckered outlook as they curve downward toward the ground. Their leaves can reach up to 4 inches long (10 cm).
Basil is a bushy plant that can reach a height of 25 to 30 inches tall (63 to 72 centimeters) and spread its branches outward to create a bushy appearance.
An individual that doesn’t fill out and gets bushy over time is called “leggy.” It’s a sign that this plant lacks proper pruning and harvesting.
Its flowers will produce basil seeds that can be saved and planted the following year (except for a few sterile, non-seed-producing species).
Unfortunately, most basils lose some sweetness when they bloom, rendering them useless as popular herbs.
Due to this, many growers cut off the blossoms as they form to forestall the plant from blooming too early.
Flowers can range in tint from purple to scarlet to white to pinkish-lavender, based on the kind.
Hence, to best harvest such a herb, watch for them and remove the whorl-shaped flower buds before they bloom.
What Are Basil Types and Their Appearance?
What does a basil plant look like?
Basil is part of the mint family, so it shares certain characteristics with mints but there are many different varieties of basil and each has its own distinct features. Let discover each types of basil with me.
Among the many types of basil, holy basil stands out because of the exceptional reputation it has earned for its medical uses. In Hinduism, it is referred to as Tulsi with a specific religious significance.
At first glance, it is pretty rocky to distinguish from common basil, yet it has several distinctive characteristics.
Here are some characteristics of holy basil that can be used to tell it apart from other types of basil, including the size and shape of its fresh basil leaves and stems.
Holy basil has light green leaves that are pointed at both ends. Although purple holy basil leaves are unusual, they do exist.
Depending on the kind, holy basil can reach a height of between 12 and 24 inches, and its stems are hairy.
One more hardy species of basil, Thai basil, is often mistaken for holy basil, for which it is the so-called Thai holy basil.
But holy basil is not the same thing as Thai basil at all. Thai basil has a unique taste reminiscent of anise and licorice. Their average is roughly 2 inches in length when fully mature.
Like the holy basil, these thin leaves have saw-like edges yet come narrower.
Beyond that, their stem is purple, making them easily recognizable. This trait is a sure sign of this basil cultivar. Thai basil produces purple stems with a pink center.
Owing to its multi-purpose uses and health benefits, sweet basil is integral in cuisines worldwide.
Due to its widespread cultivation, sweet basil is the type most likely to come into contact with you.
Still, that could be different depending on your area, as other types of basil are more prevalent in some parts of the world.
The sweet basil family, including the Romanesco, Napoletano, and Medinette variants, has a pleasant flavor and may grow to a height of 12 to 18 inches.
All three varieties of basil have distinctive aromas and leaf shapes. For instance, the Napoletano kind of basil has giant leaves of any type.
Their leaves are often glossy green, and their blossoms come in various colors, including purple and white.
Lemon basil is a well-liked plant in various regions.
This plant may attain a height of 20 inches, and its slender green leaves with faint serrations along their margins.
Basil has a lemony, anise-like aroma, and its leaves always appear in pairs. During its flowering period, lemon basil produces a white flower.
In terms of flavor, this basil variety falls between the Genovese and the Thai Sweet varieties, making it tip-top for use in mixed beverages and sweets.
Basil with a dark purple color and a flavor reminiscent of cloves. Commonly used as a garnish on top of dishes as a decorative touch in Thai and Italian cuisine.
A moderate basil with a subtle cinnamon aroma and taste can be used almost universally in Asian cuisine, from marinades to fried rice and noodles.
Cinnamon leaves are much thinner and have a bit more serrated edges than typical sweet basil leaves.
Lettuce Leaf Basil
This type of basil, which has more giant, wrinkled leaves reminiscent of lettuce, is softer in flavor than its relatives and is thus frequently used as a salad foundation.
You may get confused with plants that look like dill or basil in your garden. Hence, grasping all these features of basil plants is advisable to tell them apart correctly.
How Does Basil Smell Like?
The pleasant aroma of basil is one of its many appealing qualities. The smell of basil is loved by many. Therefore, its aroma is one of its most distinguishing features.
Aromatic and fantastic herbs are not limited to just basil. Thus, only describing their lovely fragrance cannot suffice in telling us how they smell and vary from other aromatic vegetation.
It may come as a surprise that the aroma and taste of healthy plants come in a wide range of intensities, but they do share the same odor at large.
Flavor tones are depicted detailedly in each basil type above. But overall, most varieties have an intense licorice or anise aroma owing to the chemical component anethole.
This aroma is reminiscent of Thai basil and licorice basil.
How About A Guide On Growing Basil Like An Expert?
Here are some of my precious hands-on experiences with planting basil. I summarize these pro tips by learning from experience and consulting some buffs:
- Check to see if the moist soil is. Humidity works well for basil plants.
- Use mulch surrounding the plants if you reside in a hot climate, as it will assist in retaining moisture and controlling weed growth.
- I often optimize my garden with plenty of water during summer’s prolonged dry spells, and it does the trick.
- Prune the basil seedlings to their second set when they have formed their first six delicate leaves. As a result, the plants are encouraged to branch out, yielding extra healthy leaves that can be harvested.
- Prune their branches back to their beginning fresh basil leaves once they have 6-8 flavorful leaves.
- Make use of a 5-10-5 fertilizer cautiously during the whole growing season.
- Pinch off the central shoot after about six weeks to stop the plant from blooming too soon. While flowers do bud, simply remove them.
- I always harvest basil before sudden frosts or cold spells to avoid them from perishing in freezing conditions.
Spicing your garden up with your basil is a sound idea, aside from planting cucumber and tomato together. It’s time to pick up your gloves and embark on gardening!
Basil is a herb prevailing in worldwide cuisine. It is an aromatic plant with a far-out fragrance, rendering it a good pick for multiple dishes.
Now, you should know the answer to the question: what does basil looks like? Well, it may surprise some, yet it comes in different varieties, each with its unique appearance.
From the classic sweet basil with its bright green leaves to the purple basil with its deep purple color, basil plants are a sight to behold.
So, whether you’re a seasoned cook or a curious foodie, my article is really informative for your cooking time.
Share the post with other homemakers and cooking die-hard fans!