I was fortunate enough to be able to work on a plot in a community garden last year. On the side of tomatoes I experimented to grow Japanese vegetables.
I bought shiso, mitsuba, Japanese hot pepper, and Japanese bunching onion seeds. Mitsuba and bunching onions didn’t grow at all. Japanese hot pepper was marginal success, as only one plant successfully grew, flowered and bore fruits.
But shiso was absolutely phenomenal. I only bought a package of seeds, and just spread them on the ground without covering with dirt. I probably should have thinned out, but I just let them grew. As they grew so well, I even gave some potted plants away to my friends.
Shiso is basil family annual plant. Because of the distinctive fresh aroma, it is one of the most used herbs in Japanese cuisine.
The use of shiso is almost endless. You can add a leaf when you make hand wrapping sushi, use them for decoration on the plate, finely chop them and top on hiyayakko or add in somen noodle dipping sauce, and so on.
You could buy them at Japanese grocery stores, but they are pretty expensive just for 10 leaves or so, and wilt quickly.
If you love eating Japanese food, and have a garden or balcony, consider growing shiso plants this year. They are very strong to diseases and very little insect problems. When the leaves are picked, more come out. I was able to enjoy fresh fragrant shiso leaves from summer to fall, but flowers and seeds are also edible.
At the end of the season, I salted all the left over leaves and buds to preserve. The preserved leaves are great to wrap around onigiri, and buds can be added in tsukemono (Japanese pickles) to enhance flavor.
One nice bonus to shiso plant is once you grow shiso, the seeds drop naturally on the ground, and they tend to keep growing every year on the same spot.
Shiso comes in green and red. Green shiso has wider usage and used for many cooking purposes. Red variety is little tougher than green and used for coloring umeboshi.