Seasonal Spotlight: Shiso

One of our favorite herbs is shiso, which is also known as Japanese basil, perilla and beefsteak. It's been showing up in big, healthy bunches at the Alemany Farmer's Market recently - this bunch in the photo above cost only $1!

Shiso is a member of the mint family and has large teardrop-shaped leaves with serrated edges. Have you ever had sushi that was accompanied by a fresh green leaf? Perhaps you assumed it was a garnish, like parsley, and didn't touch it. Next time, take a piece of sashimi and wrap it around the shiso leaf and eat it - it's quite delicious.

Shiso has an unique taste and fragrance that's a bit hard to describe. It is found in Japanese, Korean, and Southeast Asian cusines; it's mostly used as a wrapping or in soups and with rice. A favorite maki sushi roll of ours is shiso with umeboshi (pickled plum.) It can also be ground up into a pesto sauce and tossed with some sesame seed oil and soba noodles, or used in cocktails like a shiso julep. We also like tossing the leaves in a stir-fry.

Shiso is also very easy to grow in a container and loves having a sunny location. There are green and purple varieties of shiso, and either one is a wonderful addition to a kitchen garden.

Shiso is(Image: Kathryn Hill)