Shiso: The Delicious Little Plant That Could

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To understand the taste of shiso leaf, you have to try it yourself. Herbaceous? Citrusy? A hint of mint? Or is that basil? I might say cilantro, but haters of cilantro aren't necessarily opposed to shiso. The taste is an interesting and unique one. A friend introduced me to it, and even gave me a potted plant of my own, which I promptly killed. Or so I thought.

You can see the the remains of the shiso pot in the photo above and, interestingly enough, a shiso plant growing beside it. When my friend gave me the plant, she told me I could transplant it. I am lazy, so I just chucked the pot in another planter, next to some lemon balm, and — aside from picking a leaf here and there — mostly forgot about it. 

I felt vaguely sad when I noticed shards of terracotta in and around the planter, with no shiso in sight. I can assume some small person hit it with a ball, a stick or a rock and it broke. No one confessed, but I wasn't too mad, because we all know I would have killed that plant on my own.

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Lo and behold, I saw the other day that the shiso had already escaped the pot and survived! There are now several small plants in my planter, jockeying with the lemon balm for space, and holding their own. Go, shiso, the little plant that could!

I love those plants, with leaves ripe for picking, ready to carry sashimi from the plate to my mouth.

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Shiso complements all kinds of dishes, meat, seafood or vegetarian. Pork tacos? Add shiso! It is delicious with fried risotto cakes. Want to go all out? Try it with crab cakes topped with a dollop of pimento cheese and a side of coleslaw. Trust me.

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Need some more shiso ideas? Here you go. How do you use shiso? And what can I do with all that lemon balm?

(Images: Anne Postic)

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Anne Postic writes about cooking for her family on The Kitchn. She lives in Columbia, South Carolina with her husband and three very handsome sons. She loves talking cooking, travel, parenting and art, though not necessarily in that order.