Gardening TipsWhat you Need to Know When You Don't Have a Green Thumb
Most of the 2018 seeds are already available at the garden centre and it is always fun to go through the seed racks to see what is new and different. As I was browsing through the herb selection of seeds, I noticed a variety of seeds that I have not seen before, and thought to do a little research on it.
Shiso is a herb that is popular in Asian cuisine. It has been used for thousands of years as a medicinal plant as well as for eating and flavour. The entire plant is edible and is nutritious and the leaves are high in calcium and iron. It is sometimes known as ‘Chinese Basil’, ‘beefsteak plant’, and ‘purple mint’ which makes sense as it is a member of the lamiaceae or mint family. There are two varieties of seeds available. The Red Perilla and the Green Perilla. The Red perilla produces attractive frilly, dark ruby red, leaves that have an anise flavour. Chefs have been known to use the red perilla to colour and flavour vinegar and rice. The green perilla is slightly more spicy and tastes a little like cinnamon. Leaves can be used to wrap around sushi or served with sashimi as a garnish and also to add flavour to soups, salad rolls, and other dishes. The leaves can also be dried and sprinkled on top of dishes for added flavour and young leaves can be add to salads.
Growing Shiso is not hard. They are an annual, that have similar growing requirements as basil. Seeds are started indoors and plants can be placed outdoors after all risk of frost has passed.
The seeds are hard and could benefit by being soaked in water over night before sowing. Following the directions on the packet, sow seeds in a tray filled with moistened starter mix. After sowing the seeds place a dome on top of the tray and use bottom heat such as a Heat mat to keep soil temperature around 20 Celsius which should help with germination. Once the seeds have germinated (2-3 weeks), remove the dome for air circulation and water carefully not keeping too wet but also not letting them dry out. When the seedlings have a set of true leaves, they can be transplanted into larger containers. The plants can remain and be grown in containers, just like basil. They are attractive plants and make nice patio planters. Shiso is a heat loving plant that prefers full sun, and do not handle any frost. Plant in a fertile, well-drained soil.
To create bushy plants pinch out the growing tips, and use them in your recipes. To harvest, snip a sprig off the plant just above a set of leaves. Harvest as needed throughout the season and at the end of the season harvest the flowering tops and seeds which can be used for next years planting. Shiso may self-sow in the spring, if you leave some seed pods on them.
If you are looking to add something different to your herb garden try planting some Shiso. Even if you don’t like the flavour you will still end up with an attractive looking plant!