Is Basil a Vegetable? (EXPLAINED)

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Is basil a vegetable

If you are wondering if basil is a vegetable, then you are in the right spot. This blog discusses whether basil is a vegetable, and if you eat basil, it counts towards your daily vegetable intake.

Is Basil a Vegetable?

Basil is absolutely a vegetable. Likewise, many soft-stemmed herbs such as basil, parsley, chives, and dill are considered vegetables.

What is a vegetable?

According to the US Government’s My Plate program, there are five types of vegetables.

  1. Dark Green – Chard, lettuce, kale, collard greens, basil, marjoram are all examples of dark green vegetables.
  2. Red and Orange – carrots would be an example of a vegetable in the red/orange group.
  3. Beans, Peas, and Lentils – pole beans, bush beans, green beans, snow peas, brown lentils are all examples of vegetables within the pea family (Fabaceae)
  4. Starchy – Potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, corn, and squash are examples of starchy vegetables
  5. And Other – cauliflower, cucumbers, and celery are examples of other types of vegetables that do not fit squarely into the other four categories.

Does Eating Basil Count as Eating Vegetables?

cup of basil

Basil does count as eating a vegetable. According to My Plate by the US Government, a two-cup serving of raw basil is considered a serving of vegetables. That’s about the same amount of basil that would go into a batch of pesto.

The good news about eating basil and other greens as vegetables are that you can mix them. Mix basil with any of the following to produce a two-cup raw mixture and make one serving of vegetables. Choices include:

  • Arugula – also known as rocket
  • Cilantro
  • Dark green leafy lettuce
  • Endive
  • Escarole
  • Mesclun
  • Romaine lettuce

Two cups of mixed greens from the above list, including basil, makes for an excellent way to consume a serving of vegetables.

What is Basil Classified As Scientifically?

aromatic herbs in a bowl

Basil is a plant in the order Lamiales and the family Lamiaceae, the mint family of plants. It is kind of odd, though, because basil does not taste minty. Plants in the mint family have square stems, and the leaves grow opposite each other in pairs.

Basil and mint share many similarities, including a robust and distinct taste. Both are highly aromatic and medicinal too. Basil is helpful to quiet stomach spasms, and mint is helpful if you have nausea. The close relationship of the two helps the body in similar ways.

So many of the powerful herbs are in the Lamiaceae family. Those include:

  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Sweet Marjoram
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • And so many other herbs that are both medicinal and culinary.

Scientifically, basil is a plant in the mint family but not specifically a mint, such as spearmint. Spearmint has the genus name Mentha, whereas basil has the genus name Ocimum. Scientifically, basil and mints separate at the genus level of the scientific nomenclature. Basil is in the family, but not specifically a minty plant.

Is Basil a Type of Mint?

basil and mint

Basil is a herbaceous plant in the mint family. It isn’t specifically a type of mint, such as spearmint or peppermint. However, it is a mint if you consider that it is in the mint family. An excellent way to look at this is to examine peppermint and basil.

Peppermint has a scientific name – Mentha × Piperita – the x makes it a hybrid, but notice the word Mentha. The scientific name for spearmint is Mentha spicata. Mentha is the name of the genus for plants with that distinct minty flavor. For basil, the genus is Ocimum. So sweet basil would be called Ocimum basilicum. Basil and peppermint split at the genus level.

While scientifically, basil is in the mint family, it is not in the mint genus. So, you could say that basil is a mint, but it would be more accurate to say that basil is a herb in the mint family. Traditional mints and basil split in the scientific nomenclature at the family level. From there, each specializes in genus and species.

Sources:

Vegetables – My Plate

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