The World of Basil

Eataly Magazine (July 29, 2019)
Fresh and aromatic, basil is a staple herb in Italian cuisine. We love to grind a bunch into a pesto, add whole leaves as a garnish, and everything in between. But did you know that there is a whole world of basil varieties? Over 100 varieties are grown across the earth, from northern Italy to southern Thailand. Explore our selection of basil plants and seeds at your local Eataly, then introduce a new variety to your kitchen!


When you think of basil, you are probably thinking of sweet basil, the best-known variety that adds a floral and delicate twist to any dish. As Italians, we're partial to the Genovese strain. These large, bright-green leaves can only be grown in select are around Genova and make the iconic Pesto Genovese DOP.


Not everyone gets a chance to catch basil blossoms! Dazzling all of the senses, the pretty light-purple flowers boast deeper flavors and sweeter aromas than the sweet leaves. Top a few blossoms over your next pesto bruschetta for a unique garnish.


Lemon basil is a strong, tangy variety that is typically grown in Southeast Asia. Boasting a fragrant citrus scent, the herb's leaves are similar to sweet basil but slightly narrower with serrated edges. This basil is often enjoyed in teas, soups, and marinades.


Boasting strong anise aromas and spicy flavors, Thai basil is native to Southeast Asia. Its pointier, stiffer leaves are better suited to heat than its delicate sweet cousin. Cook in soups and pasta sauces, or enjoy the bright flavors in pesce crudo.


Opal basil sets itself apart with its deep violet hue. Like the more familiar sweet basil, opal offers light, floral flavors and sweet aromas. Grind the large leaves into a pesto for a colorful splash in your next pasta recipe!