Purple basil is a basil variety with a highly perfumed scent and nice looking, dark purple leaves. Native to tropical Asia, purple basil comes from the mint family just like basil. It is a typical plant that widely grows in the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts of Turkey. It has an important place in the Mediterranean and Far Eastern cuisines.
Just like fresh purple basil, dried purple basil with its unique and delicate aroma, adds flavor to different dishes. After being picked up, fresh purple basil is brought together in bundles and hung upside down in a dry and airy place to dry.
It has a very pungent aroma with notes of clove and mint. When chewed, it leaves anise and liquorice aromas on the palate.
It blends very well with rice dishes like pilaf, stuffed vegetables with meat and rice. It also works well with legumes, bulgur dishes, pasta and salad. In some regions of Turkey, it is a vital ingredient for preparing the outer shell of icli kofte (kibbeh). It adds a very nice flavor to bulgur dishes such as lentil balls or kisir (bulgur salad). It can also be used in vinegar making.
Fresh basil does not keep its freshness for a long time. It can be stored in the refrigerator for maximum up to 2-3 days. Wrap in a damp paper towel or store in plastic bags to preserve it in the refrigerator.
Purple basil is available in dried form. It keeps its aromatic values high in dried form as well. If you keep it in airtight jars away from heat and light, its aroma will last much longer.
Purple basil loses its aroma easily when exposed to heat. The best time to add it in the hot pots is just before you bring your meal off the stove.
It goes very well with ayran aşı (a cold soup prepared with buttermilk, wheat, chickpeas and herbs), which is a very pleasurable, healthy and satisfying dish for summer. As alternatives to chickpeas and wheat, you can prepare your soup with black-eyed peas and bulgur too.
It is a very nice flavoring agent for homemade lemonade. In a jug, mix 4 glasses of cold water with half a glass of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Mash half a glass of purple basil leaves with 6 tablespoons of caster sugar in a mortar. Add the mixture in the jug and mix well until the sugar completely dissolves. Then pass it through a strainer and share your lemonade in glasses. Don’t forget to add ice cubes right before serving.
You can also prepare a refreshing and fragrant sherbet with purple basil, which was one of the most favorite drinks in the Ottoman cuisine. Place 4 cloves, 6 tablespoons of sugar and a teaspoon of sour salt in a saucepan together with a bunch of purple basil. Add 6 glasses of boiling water over it and stir well until the sugar is dissolved. Close the lid and let it sit until it cools down. Pass it through a strainer and fill it in a jug. Keep refrigerated at least 3 hours before serving. Serve with ice cubes and purple basil leaves.