Basil is a popular kitchen herb that is used fresh or cooked in many dishes. Basil comes in many varieties with many flavors. A popular variety of culinary basil is Thai basil, an attractive purple plant used in Asian dishes. Learning to distinguish Thai basil varieties from other types of basil can help you apply the right spices to your home-cooked dishes.
Thai basil is the name used for varieties of basil which are used in Asian dishes. Though the Siam Queen basil variety is the most common type, other varieties also called Thai basil include sweet Thai basil and licorice basil.
Thai basil is an attractive kitchen plant with purple stems, purple-green leaves and purple flowers. The purple-green leaves turn dark purple when boiled. The woody stems of Thai basil often grow in a gnarled, twisting form. The leaves are smaller than other varieties of basil; they are about the size of a penny.
Thai basil has a characteristic licorice flavor that is enjoyed in many Asian dishes. It is often found fresh, with whole blossomed branches served with mint, lime and peppers on the side of Vietnamese soups. When cooked, Thai basil is used to flavor meats like beef, chicken and pork.
Thai basil is an easy plant to care for. It generally requires little fertilizer unless it grows in sandy, infertile soil. According to Colorado State University, a basil plant only needs about an inch of water per week. For the best flavor, trim stalks before they blossom or prune blossoms before they go to seed. Though Thai basil blossoms are pleasing to the eye, the stalks on which flowers are allowed to seed can take on a bitter flavor.
As are many varieties of basil, Thai basil can fall victim to a fungal disease called fusarium wilt. Symptoms of fusarium wilt include yellowing leaves which fall from the plant, brown and dying stems and plant death. Though fusarium wilt can be held off using good watering techniques and basil care, the best way to avoid fusarium wilt is to use Thai basil plants cultivated for resistance to the fungus.