Harvest time is here! We are pulling out bushels of fresh veggies every week, not to mention all the pears we are picking. This week we harvested lettuce, two kinds of kale, chard, carrots, radishes, celery, leeks, onions, basil, and purple and green shiso.
“What is shiso”, you ask? Shiso, pronounced she-so, is the Japanese name for an annual herb called perilla, which belongs to the mint family. Shiso comes in green or purple leaves with a slightly prickly texture and pointy, jagged edges, and it has a unique and vibrant taste that I could describe as herbaceous and citrusy. Like most leafy herbs, I find it is best used raw, the leaves whole or chiffonaded. The green variety produces more tender and more flavorful leaves than the purple variety, but the latter makes up for that with a potent dyeing action: it is what gives umeboshi its color.
Shiso is used in many asian cuisines, though most typically with Japanese dishes. It can be used anywhere mint or basil are called for. Some yummy suggestions include adding it to rice or soba noodles, sprinkling over tofu, adding it in a cucumber salad with rice vinegar, or in spring rolls. You can also make a pesto with it and put it on pasta, serve it with sashimi and rice, or try it with chicken stuffed with chopped umeboshi with soy sauce glaze. At Sakura Ridge, I use it in the Bento Box breakfast, perfect for days that it’s too hot to cook! Anyway you make it, it is sure to add a fresh, herb flavor to your meal.