August 11, 2010

Skankynavia: The Art of Growing Shiso

by Anders

shiso4

I am not a gardener.

I have no interest in physical labour, no patience for watching stuff grow and I’m always too busy for watering.

But after spending one year looking at a pack of Japanese Shiso leaf seeds I got from Yoko (a pure shisoholic) I had to cave in and try it out based on two reasons;

1) I wanted my balcony to look blossoming and impressive.

2) I really really want to be able to eat natto. Yes, natto – the infamously stinking, rotting Japanese favourite that makes most Westerners barf and immediately look for the nearest exit. But it’s super healthy and an essential part of the Japanese kitchen, and supposedly shiso seeds should be the happy helper here – adding a necessary ease to the natto taste and smell. At least that’s what Yoko is trying to tell me.

Shiso is a happy little food herb plant with a mixed taste somehow between basil and mint. Spicy but in a toothpaste kinda way. When you order a plate of sashimi, the beautiful green leaves separating the raw fish pieces is shiso.

So I started out on July 11th 2010 – a sunny day and perfect for being wholesome and green in the balcony gardens.

shiso1

The seed pack is in Japanese, and despite spending approx 100.000 Danish kroner/$18,000 in Japan on books and one year of language school I still can’t make out much of anything that damn pack says.
“Ooba” means Big Leaf though. The rest is a blur.

shiso2

Hmm… so much for daily Kanji tests– you’ll forget them all the very minute you leave Narita airport–unless you’ve scored a relationship with a Japanese girl (which a surprisingly large number of my male classmates did).

Anyway, I figured I’d just give it a shot, plant the seedos and water them regularly (as in when I suddenly remember I have a balcony which doesn’t happen too often).

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Day 1: Take off

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Day 7: Oh my god!! It’s alive!! I’m a garden god!

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Day 14: Growing neatly – they’re actually super cute!

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Day 18: After a couple of days featuring hardcore summer showers, it’s suddenly going really fast.

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Day 23: Green explosion!

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Day 25: Kaboom! Ready for a test snack!

By now I had waited long enough – the leaves looked like the ones on the seed pack so I thought I’d give it a go with some natto.

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Freshly cooked Japanese white rice with imported Japanese natto and, ta-da! Homegrown shiso leaves.

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I need some side dishes too… Ok, here we go…

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…… ugh… bleh…… phew, nope. Doesn’t help. Despite spending three weeks growing an aid for eating natto, it’s still natto. And my apartment still smells like old, unwashed bag lady– a pungent, heavy stench of rotting skin and armpit dirt residue. I can not eat this.

But, well… my balcony looks amazing.

Any ideas for what I can use the shiso for, since I’ve now thrown out all my leftover natto packs? Ideas greatly appreciated.

Arigato gozaimasu!

12 Comments

  • yoko
    Posted August 11, 2010 at 11:50 am

    To Anders and his green thumb! Amazing! So happy you took the plunge to grow these babies. I am sorry that they did nothing to subdue the natto nastiness for you.
    For simple ideas on using shiso – you can sprinkle strips on tsukemono (pickles), fish (good with smellier types like like mackerel), atop ramen, and of course with sashimi.
    You could make a shiso cocktail too – maybe with vodka or some other white liquor you can find.

  • Yamahomo
    Posted August 11, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    I love Skakynavia!

    For natto, I suggest
    a.add graded daikon radish, which makes natto less snotty.
    b.add additional soy sauce, which covers the smell.
    c. add scallion & shiso, which calms the flavor.

    If nothing above works, you are not destined to be friended with natto.

    On shiso usage, shiso mojito is nice, shiso granita is nice, or just keep them grow to keep your balcony look pretty.

  • Anders
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 6:36 am

    Yoko@ – thanks for the tips! Seems I can sprinkle shiso on almost everything.
    Will try to recommend shiso to Gromit from 1105, maybe he could invent a new cocktail for his bar.

    @Yamahomo – good tips, will try those next time natto (unwillingly)enters my fridge.

  • Posted August 21, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    throw it into pickling brine with some anise, cinnamon, garlic, etc. , for daikon or carrots

  • Jorge (Portugal)
    Posted September 8, 2010 at 7:19 am

    Hello friend,

    I was happy with the planting.

    I am looking for seeds but can not find. Can you tell me where to buy a packet of seeds over the internet?

    Thanks V. Much!!

    Reply please…

  • Anders
    Posted September 8, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    @Jorge: hey, thanks for reading the blog.

    Try checking out Kitazawa Seed Company – maybe they ship to Portugal too?
    http://www.kitazawaseed.com/seed_035-169.html

  • yoko
    Posted September 8, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    Wow! This seed company is in Oakland. I should definitely look into this company.

  • Posted September 12, 2010 at 1:33 am

    the way to understand an herb is to eat it raw many times. after a while, you’ll figure out where to add it to dishes.

  • Takechan
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Whenever I make a white wine pasta with mushrooms and seafood -usually clams- I slice the shiso into very thin strips and sprinkle it on top, just before serving. Awesome! Also, if you like tuna sashimi, slice it into small cubes, do the same with avocado and mix with grated ginger, finely sliced green onions and shiso. Mix together with soy and serve over hot rice. Absolutely delicious!

  • Jules Ghio
    Posted September 30, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Do you have Graded Diakon Radish.
    If you do, please sell it to me or tell me where to go get it.
    Thnak you, regards, Jules

  • Kathy
    Posted June 2, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    Being Japanese-American I love shiso and use it in various ways including as an hors d’oeurve – wrap a piece of smoked salmon around a piece of good soft cheese and wrap that with a piece of shisho leaf. Also try it in place of basil in pesto! Strong but yummy. I’d also like to try it to flavor hummous.

  • Dawn
    Posted July 18, 2012 at 7:09 am

    I really like natto when it’s prepared like this. Put cooked rice in a bowl,(I use wholegrain brown but that’s my choice). Then add a sprinkling of soy sauce, bit of mustard (English preferably) + a little garlic, fresh, powdered or granulated’s OK + maybe some chopped spring onion. Taste’s grea to me + I can eat it straight away even as a main dish in a hurry. Grated +/or creamed horseradish also works well.

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