Orange Basil?
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Sue
Posted on: February 16, 2006

This may be an odd question but is there or could there ever be an orange scented or flavored basil? There is lemon and lime, why not orange?

I have never heard of an orange basil, but there may be no reason why there couldn’t be one in the future. The scents of herbs are come from the volatile essential oils that are released to the air by the leaves. These essential oils are usually made up of diverse component oils and it’s the proportion of the component oils is what gives rise to a particular scent. The basils, for example, possess perhaps a half dozen or a dozen different essential oils. Lemon basil has a preponderance of citral and proportionately less of other oils such as eugenol, thymol, 1,8-cineole, linalool, among others. The clove scented East Indian basil (Ocimum gratissimum) has more eugenol and less of the others which gives the plant a scent of cloves. Camphor basil has more camphor than they others so it has a distinctive camphorous scent. Likewise there are many different basils with different scents and different underlying essential oil profiles. I am not expert enough in essential oil chemistry to know whether the underlying essential oils in basils include the right component oils needed to produce an orange scent, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they are.

For more information about the essential oils in the different varieties of basil, please see:

http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/proceedings1990/V1-484.html#Table%201

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