Grow it, Make it: Shiso Strawberry Wraps With Miso & Sesame
Perilla Purple Zi Su…more commonly known as Shiso, or Japanese Basil - is an exotic varietal that I’m campaigning to become a staple in your greens or herb garden. Have you tried it?! A unique flavor combination I like to think of as a combo of spearmint, basil, anise and cinnamon. It’s incredibly easy to grow with endless opportunity to experiment with - plus it’s lush royal hued leaves look stunning when mixed with other leafy heirlooms like speckled trout lettuce or painterly tricolor sage. I should mention it also does incredibly well grown in containers (not to mention is quite heat tolerant for those of us in warmer parts), making this an easy one to tackle for small space and limited yard growers as well.
Red or purple leaf shiso is often described as having an anise flavor, while the green variety some say to be spicier and more like cinnamon. I think they are both fantastic…but do admit I lean more to the purple for presentation purposes. That purple pop makes any side dish a star, my friends! Similar to basil, these fresh leaves pair delightfully with the season’s finest: stone fruit and strawberries…which is exactly how we’re going to serve up our latest crop!
But first…we need to talk growing it!
Perilla Purple Zi Su is an exotic addition to any garden and incredibly easy to grow! Loves full sun and leaves should be harvested often to promote more growth. This herb is an amazing addition to salads or as an herb substitute for garnishing. Blooms are also edible making it a beautiful topper for cocktails and desserts. They also make for great companion plants, especially for tomatoes, attracting pollinators with their delicate pink flowers that appear in late summer.
Exposure: Full/partial sun
Zone: All zones (heartiness 10 - 11, grown as an annual in most zones after last frost)
Getting Started: Plant seedlings 6 to 12 inches apart in well-drained moist soil in full to partial sun or direct sow them in well-drained soil and lightly cover with a thin layer of dirt. Shiso likes damp soil, but not overly soggy. They can withstand a full dry-out between waterings but try to keep their soil as evenly moist as possible (similar to your basil and lettuce). These plants are self-seeding so multiple rounds of sowing aren’t always necessary for fresh crop production. Individual plants can reach 36 inches tall, similar to basil pinch tops regularly once seedlings hit 6 inches to promote shorter, bushier plant that won’t go to seed as quickly and produce more leaves for harvest.
Harvest: Snip leaves when young and tender for the best flavor. Pick in the early morning when aromatics are at a flavorful peak (but similar to mint, a good wack on the palm of your hand will wake up those oils). Use leaves fresh as needed or store in the refrigerator for later use. Leaves can also be dried by hanging upside down and used similar to an herb for infusions. The seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which can be harvested and dried for consumption as well as saving for your next planting cycle.
Warning: Shiso can be toxic to horses and other livestock - choose plant location carefully and always make sure you’re not introducing something dangerous if you have these types of animals present.
Where there are many uses for shiso leaf, I’ve been loving using them as a fresh summer lettuce wrap. But if you’re looking for something a little more daring you can use the leaves to infuse cocktails or even naturally die dishes such as rice, radishes, ginger, and pickled pink garlic while adding an exotic flavor component to the mix. Just think of this as a new herb powerhouse that will bring anything from salads to sips a unique fresh flavor. I prefer eating them fresh from the plant, but leaves and seeds can be dried for extended use after harvest. Come to think of it, using seeds as a flavor topper on something like a dip could be a very intriguing use…let’s report back on that soon!
In the mean time, peep below for my new favorite summer recipe that is a great mall bites for entertaining, or just a patio happy hour for two. Of course with any of our recipes, you don’t have to grow it to make it and shiso can be found at specialty asian stores as well as most farmers markets. Once you start keeping your eye out for it, I’m sure you’ll find some to try! Or just head straight to your local nursery and see if they can order you a few plants to kick start your garden in a hurry.
Already a fan? Let know how you like to use shiso and which varietals you like best in the comments below! I’m personally curious to try growing the heirloom Kaori Ura Shiso varietal next and see how it differs in flavor.
Shiso Strawberry Wraps with Miso & Sesame
2 cup strawberries (can also substitute or combine with seasonal stone fruit of your choice)
1 tsp white miso
¼ cup champagne vinegar
¼ tsp agave syrup
¼ tsp Sesame oil
White sesame seeds
Fresh red or green shiso leaves for wrapping
Slice strawberries into bite sized pieces. Combine sesame oil, miso, agave and rice vinegar into a bowl and mix well. Drizzle dressing over strawberries and mix well before placing in the center of a shiso leaf. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and enjoy as a unique wrapped bite. If serving at a get together, set up as a serve yourself station so leaves don’t get soggy sitting out on a tray pre-assembled.
This dish is sweet, savory and totally unexpected with the herbaceous shiso wrapper. Not to mention that miso sesame dressing would be dynamite on a number of summer salads - definitely worth the try…and I hope you do!
Want to grow and make something specific?!
Let us know what you want to learn about in the comments below and we’ll get a plot in our garden ready along with you!