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White Thai Basil
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White Thai basil leaves are small to medium in size, averaging 5-8 centimeters in length, and have an ovate shape with jagged edges. The leaves are light green with small hairs, and there is a prominent central vein that branches into smaller veins across the surface. The stems are semi-thick, fibrous, and pale green to purple, and spikes of lavender and white flowers appear when the plant matures, growing at the top of the stems. White Thai basil is delicate and extremely fragrant with a camphor-like aroma combined with a hint of clove and allspice, and the leaves carry a minty flavor mixed with a zesty, peppery bite.
White Thai basil is available year-round.
White Thai basil, botanically classified as Ocimum tenuiflorum, is a perennial herb that grows on a small shrub that can reach up to sixty centimeters in height and is a member of the Lamiaceae family along with mint, rosemary, and perilla. Also known as Bai Krapow, Hot basil, White tulsi, and Rama tulsi, White Thai basil is a variety of holy basil that is used in Thai cooking, Indian folk medicine, and in Hindu worship.
White Thai basil contains vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, and zinc.
White Thai basil greens are best suited for both raw and cooked applications. Predominately used in Thai cuisine, they are commonly combined into stir-fries such as the popular Pad Gkaprow, which is a hot and spicy dish with strong garlic and basil notes, and also coconut-based curries. To use White Thai basil, first separate the leaves from the stems and twigs, as the dish will take on a woody flavor if these are used. White Thai basil leaves are then added at the end of the cooking process to preserve their delicate nature and flavor. White Thai basil greens pair well with ginger, garlic, onions, fish sauce, soy sauce, fresh chiles, bell peppers, carrots, green beans, snap peas, meats such as poultry and pork, and seafood such as fish, shrimp, and scallops. They will keep up to a week when wrapped in paper towels, sealed in an airtight bag, and stored in the upper portion of the refrigerator. White Thai basil can also be stored at room temperature on the counter in water for 1-2 days.
In India, holy basil is one of the most sacred plants and is used in the Hindu religion during practices such as morning prayers. Thought to be a manifestation of Tulasi, the goddess of love and protection, holy basil is often grown around Hindu temples and planted outside of homes to be used in prayer and rituals for spiritual health and purification. Holy basil is also commonly consumed in the form of tea as a part of traditional Ayurvedic medicine.
White Thai basil is native to India and Southeast Asia, and although it is unknown exactly when cultivation began, it has been grown in Asia since ancient times. Today White Thai basil is available at specialty grocers and fresh markets in Asia, Europe, the United States, and Australia.