Mammoth Basil – Same As Napoletano?
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Robert Kordet
Posted on: December 22, 2003

You have a basil in your catalogue that we have ordered over the years. It is called Mammoth Basil (#S1266). Could you tell us if this basil is what is called Napoletano Basil ? They look the same and we want to be more specific for our customers.

There is a history of imprecision in the naming of sweet basils, including the large-leaf forms. Here is what Tom Debaggio and Susan Belsinger write in their book, "Basil: An Herb Lover’s Guide":

"We tested six basils called "lettuce-leaf", a large sweet, a large green, a green broadleaf, a ‘Napoletano’, a ‘Mammoth’, and a ‘Valentino’. Although the latter three bore names, they displayed so much variation (from puckered to smooth, for instance) that we decided they were lettuce-leaf basils at heart, just dressed fancier."

Debaggio and Belsinger go on to describe a ‘Napoletano’ that is "the most rippled of any large-leaf basil" with large, light green leaves that are "puckered like a crocodile’s skin and heavily veined." But they still consider it to be a type of lettuce-leaf basil. In essence their view of what a ‘Napoletano’ basil should be is narrower than what the seed industry has represented as ‘Napoletano’, but they argue that this narrower vision is a standard in Italy. It is possible that the seed industry has not been careful in maintaining the variety true to its original form.

To conclude, ‘Mammoth’ and ‘Napoletano’ belong to the same large ‘lettuce-leaf’ ribbed-leaf category of basils, but we hesitate to say that they are exactly the same.

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