Gardening where the sidewalk ends

See Some Shiso June 6, 2009

Every year at the Seattle Tilth Edible Plant Sale, I buy some unfamiliar (to me) herbs and other edibles. Last year, one was shiso, which is used mainly in Japanese cooking and also has medicinal uses. One source I found said that it’s often served with raw fish (i.e. sushi) because it can help prevent food poisoning.

I can’t even remember if I actually ate any of the leaves, but I really enjoyed the plant. It grew without any care in my hot, dry parking strip garden, had lovely variegated purple leaves all summer long, and then the seed pods were interesting and stuck around for most of the winter.

So, since it’s an annual (and a member of the mint family), I decided to buy another plant this year at the sale. It took me a while to get it into the ground, but I put it in my daughter’s veggie patch since I thought she might enjoy having a purple plant (her new favorite color, thank god the pink phase finally seems to be ending!) that is also fine to pick a leaf off and nibble on. Here it is, watered in but dirt not covering it up yet. Hot sunny day, terrible transplanting weather of course.

Planting shiso

As it was going into the ground, I had a horrible thought. Wait, those leaves look so familiar – could those million little seedlings I just pulled up thinking they were an invasive mint-ish weed that my dad warned me not to let get established in my garden, and that I was so proud of myself for seeing and yanking early, be shiso volunteers? I pulled them out of the weed bucket to take a look:

Pulled-up shiso seedlings, whoops

Oh, um, yes, that would be they. Now I know! If you have as shiso plant, at least in my climate (Zone 8), you never need to buy another plant – you will have seeds and seedlings forever! Enough to spread around the garden if you wish, or give away or pull up if not. Lesson learned.

Other names for shiso are Perilla, Kemangi. and Beefsteak Leaf. Click here for a yummy-sounding recipe for edamame (soy beans) with shiso and Meyer lemon vinaigrette.


10 Responses to “See Some Shiso”

  1. tokyo5 Says:

    Yes, Shiso is a commonly used herb in Japan…with sashimi, some soups and sometimes even in spaghetti.

    But I was surprised that Pepsi Shiso will be sold here soon!

  2. Tatyana Says:

    Karen, I guess many of us have a similar story about pulling out something that was not supposed to be pulled out! At least, you NOTICED! Good for you! Thanks for the info, it’s a new herb for me. I don’t eat sushi every day, but I like everything that self seeds, except a shot weed!

  3. ryublade Says:

    It’s true. Shiso is a perilla, so once you grow it and allow it to go to seed, you’ll always have volunteers. In some parts of the country, the perilla is considered a weed (it’s that invasive). But, it has beautiful leaves and is just as nice looking as planting coleus. Plus, it’s edible. I’m growing the green and the varigated shiso plants in my garden. Also, I have the Vietnamese Perilla in my garden. If you like pasta, just chop a couple of shiso leaves and sprinkle on top of your pasta. It makes a great fresh herb seasoning.

  4. Kim Says:

    I buy the “dressed up” version called ‘Magilla’ – I’ve always laughed at Magilla Perilla. It is gorgeous in pots with other plants, but in my zone 7 garden, I’ve never seen a seedling. Maybe because I don’t let it flower or because it doesn’t flower. I seem to remember Frances of Faire Garden pulling up Perilla seedlings . . . . . .

    • ansu Says:

      Hi, i’m from Italy,..i’m looking for perilla magilla for a lot but i have not find it yet..can you help me? in Europe is impossible, maybe from your ways…lot of thank

  5. Racquel Says:

    I”ve done the same thing only to realize that the “weeds” I was pulling were the plant I thought was long gone. šŸ™‚

  6. Megan Says:

    I hate when I accidentally buy a plant I don’t need. Especially because there are so many plants I do need. I do the same thing – buy herbs because they’re interesting, but never actually get around to eating them.

  7. Aerie-el Says:

    What an interesting plant – pretty, tasty, and so many good uses.
    Bet your daughter loves having this new plant in her veggie patch!

  8. Jen Says:

    Never heard of this one, so I’ll have to keep an eye out for it. Especially since I have a purple (for Prince) theme going in my garden this year! So, I’m curious – if you had to describe shiso flavor, what other herbs would you compare it to?

  9. GardenJunkie Says:

    Here in Zone 6 perilla seems to take over if left to its own devices – no need to ever buy it, just pull a few from the neighbor’s lawn! But it is really pretty so I’m willing to deal with the weeding…

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