Israeli Basil
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Clarice Hambly
Posted on: August 19, 1998

Good morning from the East coast

Hello Conrad. Just a quick note this morning to seek your assistance in locating an herb.

In New York last winter, our head chef, Michael Smith, saw a herb in the New York market known as Israeli basil. It is a basil that stays bright green in a pesto. Although I have looked through my herb catalogues I am unable to find it. Can you help?

There is no particular cultivar of basil that is called "Israeli basil" as far as we know. The Israelis have been growing and exporting fresh-cut herbs, including basil, for several years, and we suspect that you are writing of some material that was sold in the New York market.

The Israelis have made some minor breeding modifications to the standard basils, but nothing major enough to be such an improvement over the standard varieties.

Keep in mind that there are dozens of varieties of sweet basil, from small leaf bush types to large mammoth leaf types. Each of these are quite different and may hold colour in pesto very differently. Typically, the Genovese types are regarded as the best for pesto, but many of the others can be used also.

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