It's official: Basil is not a teenager.

Unlike my teenage sons, who need at least 10 hours a day in a dark room to sleep and grow into the best versions of themselves, basil becomes its best when given light 24/7. I know it's a strange analogy, but it's the first thing that popped into my mind when I read that MIT scientists studied basil and found that tastiest basil comes from plants constantly exposed to light.

The scientists, who grew basil in shipping containers and monitored every moment of the experiment, thought the basil would do better with some time in the dark to become the best basil it could be. They were surprised they were wrong.

"The highest density of flavor molecules was produced by subjecting the plants to all-day light," they wrote in their findings. Quantitatively, the light-drenched basil had more flavor.

Employing cyber agriculture

scientist molecule Cyber agriculture can help scientists pinpoint the molecules in edible plants that make them tastier and better able to fight diseases. (Photo: By Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock)

This experiment will lead to other research as the scientists rely more on computers to improve growing practices. Cyber agriculture, as they call it, uses "algorithms in agriculture to optimize growing conditions for flavourful crops." By using this method to study how crops grow under different conditions, MIT's goal is to discover how to optimize growing conditions and to share discoveries openly to help growers adapt to climate change. Their findings will act as "climate recipes" that can be followed as growing conditions change.

Now that the scientific team has honed in on how to make basil tastier, they are planning future experiments that will determine how to grow basil with a higher level of compounds that fight various diseases such as diabetes.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Basil gets tastier with 24-hour light
MIT scientists are creating "climate recipes" for basil using computer algorithms or cyber agriculture.