Thinly sliced shiso leaves for garnish.

Thinly sliced shiso leaves for garnish.

A basil-like green shiso leaves (also called ohba) is a common Japanese herb. They are often sliced into thin ribbons to be used as a condiment of cold somen noodles or hiyamugi noodlesduring summer. The leaves have distinctive refreshing aroma.

Other than used as condiments, a whole leaf can be lightly battered and fried as a part of shojin-age (vegetable tempura). Some people might have seen it at a sushi restaurant in between a slice of squid and rice.

Shiso leaves comes in red and green. Red shiso leaves are rarely eaten fresh. They are mainly salted and used to add red color to umeboshi. You may find some of them in umeboshi package. Red shiso are used for furikake (yukari) as well.

Shiso grows vigorously.

Shiso grows vigorously.

Just like other herbs, hardy shiso plants are very easy to grow. But they are expensive in the United States. Some Japanese in abroad plant shiso in their garden. Leaves can be harvested throughout summer until fall, and in fall they have purple or white flowers and bear tiny seeds.

The whole cluster of flowers are sometimes used on the side of sashimi at Japanese restaurants. Young shiso seeds can be salted and used as condiments throughout the years.

I grow green shiso plants in a garden. They grow vigorously and new plants sprout out by themselves on the following year from the place the seeds dropped. You can harvest more than you can consume, so that it’s a good idea to salt the leaves at the end of the season.

Shiso is annual. Once shiso plants are grown in a garden, they grow on the same spot every year.


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