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|Loo Loo Farms|
Cardinal basil is a tall variety with a deep burgundy-colored stem from which sprouts bright green, thick, oval leaves. The mature plant produces tightly packed, spiky blossoms ranging in color from magenta to deep red. Cardinal basil is named for the bird of the same color. The plant typically reaches 24 to 30 inches tall with a bushy growth pattern. The leaves are slightly spicier than traditional basil, with a licorice taste. Though the flowers are completely edible, they can develop a bitter note when left to mature.
Cardinal basil is available from spring through the fall months.
Cardinal basil is botanically classified as Ocimum basilicum ‘cardinal’ and is grown for both its edible foliage and its decorative blooms. It is often used as an ornamental edge plant in gardens, imparting a spicy aroma and acting as a natural deterrent to pests. This Israeli basil variety was designated an ‘Agricultural Research Organization (ARO) Selected Cultivar’. Cardinal basil is also used in bouquets and flower arrangements, for its bright magenta blossoms.
Basil is rich in vitamin K, iron, potassium and magnesium. The oils in basil are used for both their aroma and for the health benefits they offer. Basil contains compounds beneficial for lowering blood pressure and easing symptoms of lung disease. Basil is also said to help aid in digestion.
Cardinal basil is highly desired for its thick leaves, which impart a strong anise-licorice flavor. It can be added to dishes when fresh and will also keep well when dried. Cardinal basil can be used like other basil varieties, though the stronger flavor should be noted. To flavor soups and stews, add torn leaves during preparation; for more intense, fresh flavor, add a chiffonade of Cardinal basil to the finished dish. The thick leaves of Cardinal basil are ideal for drying to preserve, though the flavor diminishes over time. The leaves can also be preserved in vinegar or oil. Fresh basil will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week when put in a perforated plastic bag.
Basil has been represented throughout history as both a culinary ingredient and a medicinal herb. The English used oil of basil in cosmetics and for medicinal purposes. In different cultures basil was a symbol of love, often given as a token of affection.
Cardinal basil was developed in Israel by the Genesis Seed Company. The plant will produce its vibrant scarlet flowers in the late spring, and will keep them throughout the summer. Leaves can be continuously harvested from the plant while it is in bloom.