Can You Eat Black Basil Leaves?

Basil is an annual herb loved by culinary professionals and everyday cooks for its distinctive, slightly peppery flavor, sweet fragrance, and beautiful green color. There are many ways to enjoy basil, so whether it is used fresh as a garnish on a cocktail or chopped and added to soups and stews, it’s important to get to know this versatile herb.

But what about black basil leaves? Can you eat black basil leaves? No. You should not eat black basil leaves. Basil should be dark green, red, or purple. If basil leaves turn black, have black or brown spots, and have a slimy finish, they have a fungus or bacteria growing on them.

There’s something amazing about planting basil in the backyard or on a windowsill and watching it grow and flourish into a gorgeous, fragrant plant. So how do you grow the perfect basil plant to be harvested and enjoyed throughout the year?

First, you might want to consider growing a variety of basil as they all look, taste, and smell differently. What are the different types of basil, and what are their characteristics?

  • Sweet Basil: Sweet basil, also referred to as Genovese, is like summer in a plant. It is the most commonly used basil and features dark green, round, cup-shaped leaves and an aromatic peppery yet sweet flavor. It is frequently used to make pesto and added to sauces.
  • Purple Basil: Purple basil is a beautiful, dazzling herb featuring large dark purple, ruffle-shaped leaves and an intoxicating sweet fragrance. Purple basil is not as hardy as sweet basil but looks gorgeous when growing alongside it. Purple basil has a spicy clove-like flavor that is a great addition to salad dressings and infused oils.
  • Greek Basil: Greek basil, also referred to as fine leaf or little leaf basil, features a smaller, more compact ornamental leaf. It is a beautiful herb with a flavor and fragrance similar to sweet basil, and you can use it in recipes that call for sweet basil.
  • Lemon Basil: Lemon basil features bright green leaves that are larger than other basil types. It has a distinctive citrus fragrance and flavor. This striking herb with flowering spikes will grow as high as 18 inches. Lemon basil is perfect when planted next to other basils and herbs. Add lemon basil to tea, cocktails, water, and lemonade, or sprinkle into salads.
  • Cinnamon Basil: Cinnamon basil is also referred to as Mexican basil. It features smaller leaves than sweet or purple basil and has bright purple stems. Cinnamon basil features a distinctive cinnamon fragrance and is commonly used in tea, beverages, stir-fry dishes, and fresh salads.
  • Thai Basil: Thai basil features beautiful dark green serrated leaves and reddish-purple flowers. Thai basil features a hint of spicy licorice flavor, an anise-like fragrance. Thai basil is an essential ingredient in Pho and other Asian recipes like stir-fry, salads, and curry.

Now that you know the different types of basil, let’s cover some tips for growing healthy basil. One thing is for sure. All basil thrives in direct sunlight.

  • Basil Loves the Heat: If you grow your basil plant outside, plant it when you know the nights are warm and the days are hot. Plant your basil in a sunny spot with full morning sun.
  • Get Starter Herb Plants: Instead of growing your basil from seeds, we suggest going to a nursery or farmer’s market and purchase starter plants. It is much easier than growing from seeds.
  • Watering Is Key: Make sure your basil is planted in fertilized soil and watered a minimum of once every two to three days. Check the soil daily, and if it is dry, water the plant as needed.
  • Pinch off Flowers: When your basil plant begins to flower, pinch off the flower so that the energy will create more leaves, not flowers and seeds. Tip: the flower is tasty on salads and pasta dishes.
  • Harvest Regularly: When your thriving basil plant grows to between six to eight inches tall, harvest your herbs. Pinch the leaves right at the stem. Early morning is the best time to harvest basil.

Now that we have shared the different types of basil and how to grow and harvest them, you’ll notice none of them have black leaves. Let’s share the many ways to use basil in everyday recipes.

  • Blend basil leaves into sauces, soups, and stews
  • Purée basil leaves into smoothies
  • Chop basil leaves and sprinkle on salads and Charcuterie boards
  • Use different colors of basil leaves to garnish a meat platter
  • Top avocado and tomato toast with basil leaves
  • Blend basil leaves with other herbs to add depth of flavor to pasta dishes
  • Add whole basil leaves to your favorite pizza
  • Use basil leaves to infuse flavored olive oil for bread dipping
  • Add basil leaves to fresh strawberries and drizzle with balsamic vinegar
  • Chop and mix basil leaves with garlic and olive oil for traditional bruschetta

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Will Basil grow year after year?

Basil is an annual and needs to be planted yearly.

2. Should I wash basil before I consume it?

Gently wash basil by running cool water over the leaves to remove any dirt or debris. Carefully pat dry with a soft towel or air dry

3. How do I dry and store basil?

Place basil leaves on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Set your oven to the lowest temperature and bake for four hours or until leaves crumble to the touch. Remove from oven, allow to cool, and store in airtight containers.

4. Can I freeze and store basil?

Place cleaned basil leaves into a food processor, adding a little oil to create a paste. Spoon into ice cube trays and freeze. Remove from trays and transfer into airtight containers. Store in the freezer until needed.

5. Why does basil turn dark when I cut it?

Similar to an apple, cut basil will oxidize and turn color.

6. What is the best way to cut or chop basil?

The best way to cut basil leaves is to stack and roll them together, and using the sharpest knife, gently cut them and use them right away for best results. You can also gently tear the leaves.

7. Is basil a healthy food?

Basil contains a variety of nutritional components, including multiple antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

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