The plant grows 1 1/2 to 2 feet (45 to 60 cm) tall. The coarse leaves are 1/2 inch (1 cm) long, with jagged edges.
In the tropics, Holy Basil is treated as a perennial.
It blooms with very small flowers.
Holy Basil is grown around Hindu temples in India, and often planted outside Hindu homes. It is deemed to be prized by Lord Hare Krishna.
There are two strains of Holy Basil.
Red: A “red” strain has reddish stems, and darker green leaves. It’s slightly hotter. It is sometimes called “sacred purple basil.” In an Indian context, it is referred to sometimes as “Dark or Shyama tulsi.”
White: A “white” strain has light-green leaves with light-grey cast to them, blunt ends, white stems. In an Indian context, it is referred to sometimes as “light or Rama tulsi.”
You may hear two different accounts of how Holy Basil is used in cooking: one version saying that it is, and one that is isn’t at all.
The truth is that it is not really used in Indian cooking. It is, however, used in Indian folk medicine, and in Hindu worship ceremonies.
Holy Basil is used in cooking in Thailand, where it is called Bai gka-prow and is used in stir-fried dishes and soups.
If you can only get the dried version of Holy Basil instead of fresh, Thai cooks recommend using the dried along with some fresh of any other kind of basil. The dried should be soaked a bit first in cold (not hot) water to revive it somewhat. Discard any stems, as they won’t soften.
Cooking Holy Basil helps to better blend the peppery and basil tastes in the leaves.
Store wrapped in dry paper towel (sic) in a plastic bag in fridge. Use within a few days of purchase. Wilts and loses flavour quickly.
Sometimes you will see varieties of sweet basil called “holy basil”, but they are not the same.