Shiso (Perilla frutescens; annual), also called beefsteak plant, has three leaf color variations (purple, green and a bicolor), all of which are as ornamental as they are tasty. Shiso self-seeds readily in the garden, but because of its shallow root system, it’s easy to weed out.
In Japan, purple shiso (shown above) is used to color the pickled ginger served with sashimi. Shiso’s versatile flavor, a combination of cilantro and mint with spicy overtones, is as good with fresh fruit as it is with savory seafood and rice dishes.
• 2 cucumbers, peeled and sliced
• 2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
• 1 large peach, peeled and chopped
• ¼ cup green or purple shiso, chopped
• Pinch of salt
1. Combine cucumbers and vinegar; let stand at room temperature 10 minutes.
2. Add peach, shiso and salt. Toss to combine.
Leda Meredith is a botanist, writer and instructor at the New York Botanical Garden and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, specializing in edible and medicinal plants. She is the author of Botany, Ballet, & Dinner from Scratch: A Memoir with Recipes (Heliotrope Books, 2008).
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