African blue basil (Ocimum Kilimandscharicum) is a fairly new variety of basil that is cold tolerant and has a strong, aromatic scent of camphor. The leaves of a young plant are purple and turn green as the plant matures.
African blue basil was created in Athens, Ohio in 1983 when two type of basil were accidentally crossed. The variety has a strong smell of camphor which comes from its East African parent plant which contains upwards of 60 percent camphor. Camphor is common in other herbs such as rosemary and sage.
African blue basil is extremely cold tolerant, but like other types of basil, it thrives in hot, dry weather when the plant can receive the maximum amount of sunlight.
This variety of basil needs to be started from the cutting of an existing plant. It cannot be started from seed. When planting, find a sunny spot and be sure to keep the soil moist. African blue basil may be tolerant to colder weather but it does not grow very well in the cold. African blue basil plants produce new leaves consistently so do not be shy when harvesting leaves.
African blue basil has many culinary uses. On its own, the flavor may be a little strong, thanks to the camphor. The best way to use this type of basil is as a flavor enhancer. Just chop it up and sprinkle it into any dish such as soups, stews, sauces, salads, pasta, salsa, meats, and fish.
As the weather warms, small purple flowers without seeds start to appear on the plant. These succulent flowers have a fruity taste that compliments the camphor tasting leaves. The flowers can add great flavor to many dishes especially salads.
The health benefits of African blue basil are not well know since it has only been around for a short period of time. It is believed that this type of basil could be great to help those with a cough, thanks in part to the camphor. Next time you have a cough, take the leaves and steep them in hot water like you would with tea.