Shiso (Perilla frutescens) is a beautiful herb that self-seeds with abandon. It’s flavour is hard to pinpoint, something akin to mint meets a savoury herb like caraway with a hint of citrus. I’ve been growing it for years, but it’s aggressive nature always seemed to be curbed on the roof where conditions could be exceedingly hot mid-summer. It’s population of the rooftop’s pots was never more than I could handle or use within any given growing season.
I planted purple shiso seedlings in my current garden tentatively and with its invasive nature in mind. It remained controlled in the first year, and while its colony grew in the second, it stayed within the confines of the raised bed in which I had planted it. I was careful to remove seedheads at the end of the year, although truth be told, I probably should not have allowed any of it to get to the seed stage, period.
And so that brings us to year three. The shiso is colourful, gorgeous, thick, lush, and dominating. As much as I enjoy the flash of colour and texture it brings to some of my less exciting vegetable beds, there is simply too much of it. Far too much. I’ve had to thin the herd several times from the original bed as well as seedlings that continue to pop up inexplicably anywhere and everywhere. I’ve found at least one seedling in just about every pot. You’d be surprised by how it is flourishing in the tiniest nooks and crannies and even the mulch pathways!
Needless to say, I have a big crop of shiso this year and with abundance comes experimentation. How to use up such a peculiar flavoured herb? I’ve made shiso drinks in the past — in fact, there is a recipe for shiso slush in my book, Grow Great Grub, so I thought I’d begin there. It was painfully hot and humid here in Toronto last week and one way that I beat the heat was by making this unusual version of herbal iced tea.
RECIPE: Shiso Iced Tea
Lemon juice (or citrus in general) is the key to using shiso as a beverage. It brightens up the flavour and magically transforms the tea from dull purple to a bright, almost nuclear pink.
- 1 cup fresh shiso leaves
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
- 1 tablespoon agave syrup, or to taste
Bring 2 cups water to boil in a kettle or pot. Add the shiso to a tea pot, pour over the boiling water and let it steep for about 10-15 minutes.
Strain out the leaves, pressing with a spoon to extract all of the flavour. Stir in the lemon juice and agave syrup until dissolved.
Pour the mixture into a pitcher, add 1 cup of cold water, and place in the fridge to chill.
Add ice cubes just before serving.
Make about 3 cups.