Basil leaves are used either fresh or dry as culinary herbs to add flavor to dishes when cooking.
Together with other plants such as lavender, thyme, rosemary, and hyssop, basil belong to the mint family.
There are several varieties of basil plants, and they are all species within the plant genus “Ocimum“.
Some varieties including the sweet basils have green leaves, however, a few varieties are grown for their purple leaves while some others have a mixture of both colors.
The main difference between basils with purple leaves and those with green leaves is a higher concentration of the purple pigment anthocyanin in their leaves than in the green basils.
Anthocyanin is a natural pigment that is responsible for the colors purple, red and blue in several plants.
The Purple leave basils which are rich in the plant pigment anthocyanin are often used as ornamental plants.
This article discusses the differences between purple and green basil leaves, as well as the significance of the plant pigment anthocyanin.
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Purple-colored basils have a higher concentration of anthocyanin in their leaves than green basils.
The scent of purple basils is clove-like. They could be used as ornamental plants and some varieties of the purple basils are used as a source of red pigments for the food industry.
Their colors may change from purple to green under certain conditions including when their leaves aren’t getting enough sunlight.
Sometimes, these purple-colored basils produce offsprings that are green in color.
Varieties of basils with purple leaves include cultivars of sweet basil such as Amethyst basil, Purple ruffle basil, Dark opal basil, and Osmin basil.
Others species that have purple leaves are the Red rubin basil, Holy sacred red basil, and the African blue basil.
Some varieties have leaves that are both green and purple in color. They are licorice, purple bush, tulsi, and Anise.
Most varieties of basils have green leaves.
The green basils have a lesser concentration of anthocyanin in their leaves than purple basils hence the green color.
Sweet basil is the most commonly used to flavor dishes, and cultivars of sweet basils include both green and other purpled leave varieties.
Lettuce leaf basil is a cultivar of sweet basil with large green leaves.
Cinnamon basil is a green-leaved variety with a slight cinnamon flavor as a result of the compound methyl cinnamate.
Thai basil is slightly spicy and popular in Thai cuisine
Lemon basil and mrs burns lemon basil have green leaves with a lemony scent. The lemon basil is a separate species from sweet basil and it has a high concentration of the compound citral.
The natural pigments carotenoids, chlorophyll, and anthocyanin are responsible for some of the colors in plants.
Chlorophyll is a green pigment present in the leaves of plants. In some plants, this green pigment can also be found in the fruits and stems.
Anthocyanin is responsible for red, blue, black, and purple colors in plants.
The concentration of anthocyanin is high in blackcurrants as well as cherries. It is a water-soluble pigment found in vacuoles within plant cells.
Vacuoles are compartments within the cells, they are membrane-bound organelles and contain several molecules including enzymes.
Anthocyanin pigments are often extracted from plants that have a high concentration of them, and they are used in the production of food dye for food preparation.
Several factors determine their stability and the type of color expressed in plants with high concentrations of anthocyanin.
The plant would be red in an acidic environment, blue in basic, and purple in a neutral environment.
Anthocyanin is not just a pigment compound, it protects the plant from the damaging effects in their environment.
It absorbs sunlight, repels predators, and also attracts insects for pollination.
When consumed, anthocyanin has been found to have antioxidant and antimicrobial effects in humans.
Basils leaves are also rich nutritionally. They are usually used in small quantities so they supply only small amounts of some of these nutrients.
However, they have a high vitamin K content per serving.
Basil leaves also contain some amounts of iron, manganese, and calcium.
Anthocyanin pigments are much higher in purple basils than green-colored basils.
Some varieties of basils with purple leaves have ornamental value and are used as ornamental plants.
Sometimes they are used to make food coloring after the purple colors have been extracted from their leaves.
Basils are also rich in vitamins minerals and antioxidants, and apart from their culinary uses, the leaves also have some medicinal properties and are used to make medicine.
The essential oils which are responsible for their scents could also be extracted and are used in so many ways.