Basil (Ocimum basilicum), of the Family Lamiaceae. Basil is a tender low-growing herb that is grown as a perennial in warm, tropical climates. Basil is originally native to India and other tropical regions of Asia, having been cultivated there for more than 5,000 years. There are many varieties of basil, that which is used in Italian food is typically called sweet basil, as opposed to Thai basil or holy basil, which are used in Asia. There are so many uses for basil that every herb gardener will want to have a plant or two. It is an attractive plant that works well in vegetable, herb and flower gardens. Place pots of basil around the deck or porch to enjoy the aroma. Basil has a warm, resinous, clove-like flavor and fragrance. The flowers and leaves are best used fresh and added only during the last few minutes of cooking. Basil works well in combination with tomatoes. Finely chopped basil stirred into mayonnaise makes a good sauce for fish.