Red Lettuce Basil
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Red Lettuce basil is a compact, bushy plant that grows 30 to 45 centimeters tall and bears edible white or lilac flowers when mature. Its large, aromatic, ruffled leaves can reach up to 10 centimeters long and 7 centimeters wide and may be fully reddish-purple in color or bright green with splashes of dark maroon. The leaves offer a crisp, lettuce-like texture, a sweet anise-like scent, and a mild, herbal, sweet flavor with notes of cinnamon and pepper.
Red Lettuce basil is available in the summer.
Red Lettuce basil is a rare sweet basil variety botanically classified as Ocimum basilicum and is a member of the large Lamiaceae, or mint family, alongside other popular culinary herbs like rosemary, oregano, and lavender. It is a lettuce-leafed variety known to be some of the largest and most productive basil varieties. Like other basils, Red Lettuce basil is widely used in Italian cooking as a flavoring and garnish, favored for its color and size.
Red Lettuce basil is a good source of vitamin A to maintain healthy organ functioning, vitamin C to strengthen the immune system, and vitamin K to assist in faster wound healing. The basil also provides magnesium, calcium, iron, and potassium and is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Red Lettuce basil is best used fresh as a flavoring agent or garnish in a wide variety of savory and sweet applications, from bruschetta to sorbet. Its large size lends well for use in sandwiches, wraps, and pizzas, and it can also be used to make a unique and colorful red pesto. It can be incorporated whole, chopped, crushed, or dried, making an excellent substitute for other sweet basil varieties in salads, soups, tomato sauces, and pasta or rice dishes. It can also be sauteed into eggs, stir-fried with vegetables, or infused into oil or vinegar. Red Lettuce basil pairs well with other herbs such as mint, parsley, and cilantro, as well as red meat, chicken, fish, pine nuts, walnuts, tomatoes, zucchini, bell peppers, garlic, onion, shallots, ginger, and fruits such as pears, strawberries, nectarines, and watermelon. To store Red Lettuce basil, wrap the leaves in a moist paper towel and keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few days. The leaves can also be dried or frozen for extended use.
Red Lettuce basil is uncommon outside of Italy, where it is a popular culinary herb and, like other sweet basil, is considered a symbol of love. It was once believed that if a man accepted a sprig of sweet basil from a woman, he would fall in love with her. During the Middle Ages, single women would wear a sprig of basil in their hair or place sprigs of basil on their balconies to signal their openness to romance and to help bring them love.
Basil is native to tropical regions of Asia and Africa and has been cultivated for thousands of years for culinary and medicinal purposes. Red Lettuce basil is primarily grown in Italy, and while its exact origins are unknown, lettuce-leafed basil varieties have been cultivated since at least the 1800s. While Red lettuce basil is relatively rare outside of Italy, it can be grown at home in containers or found in specialty stores and markets in Europe and the United States.
Recipes that include Red Lettuce Basil. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Garden Mentors||Lettuce-Basil Perfect for Sandwiches|