The name given to several aromatic herbs of the Mint family, but chiefly to the common or sweet basil (Ocymum basilicum), and the bush basil, or lesser basil (Ocymum minimum), the leaves of which are used in cookery. The name is also given to several kinds of mountain mint (Pycnanthemum).
Well-known from cuisine, basil is also used as a strong, spicy middle note in perfume making.
Basil, a member of the mint family, has a flavor which is a cross between licorice and cloves. Widely used in Mediterranean cooking, it is gaining ground in American cuisine, too. Although it is a summer herb, it can be grown during the winter if placed on a sunny window-ledge.