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There are basil seeds for pungent pesto, colourful garnishes, and spicy international dishes. The plant owes its aromatic and variable nature to a complex combination of chemicals, expressed uniquely in each variety. Many of the components that distinguish the different varieties of basil are also found in the foods they resemble. For instance, the clove-scented basils contain higher proportions of a chemical called eugenol, which is also found in cloves. Lemon basil contains significant quantities of citral, which gives lemon peel its distinctive smell. Anethole is the chemical that gives basil its licorice-like aroma, and anethole is also found in anise, true licorice, and fennel. This game of scents demonstrates one aspect of plant chemistry in plain, easily observed terms.
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