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.
The hot peppers are in their prime, the late season tomatoes are ripening faster than I can use them, the sun is setting earlier in the evening (no more gardening until 10pm) and even the tomatillos are not far now. All of the hallmarks of the September garden have arrived. I am trying my best this year to enjoy it as-is without fretting about summer’s end.
I found this guerilla patch of green shiso growing in the alley behind a high rise apartment building in my neighborhood. I took this picture last summer but first discovered the garden when we were shooting bike riding scenes for Recreating Eden. I’ve been back a few times since but have not managed to run into the gardener. Eventually…
I desperately need to clean up my rooftop garden. Desperately. Double desperately. It’s horrible how long I’ve let it got this year really. The warmer Fall temperatures were wonderfully evil and I just went with it pretending that Fall would continue forever. I rewarded myself for cleaning up at the community garden so early this year. I can put it off a little longer, I said. It will be just like last year, I said. There will not be snow until January and by then everyone will be freaking out and talking about the blooming crocus and dandelion flowers and how the end of the world is neigh and it won’t matter that some of the pots weren’t empty or that the strawberries never did get replanted from the big pot into the ground.
And now I am in this dilemma. It has already snowed. The ground is probably frozen. I say probably because I haven’t had the courage to check. I would take a picture and post it here for you to see what I am talking about but that would mean having to look and I can’t bear it. I avoid looking out there entirely preferring to pretend it doesn’t exist. From memory and the occasional tiny peek I do seem to recall an assortment of clay pots that are usually emptied, washed and put away by this time every year prior to this one. I’m pretty sure that tender Echeveria I’ve been over-wintering indoors for years is now dead. The shiso was never harvested. Lifeless bean stalks cling to string and a few remaining lantern-like tomatillos hang from leafless branches.
Today would be the perfect day to get out there and do it already. The sun is shining, the temperatures are above zero, and anything that was recently frozen is probably melted after yesterday’s torrential downpours. I could cut back the plants, remove and wash the terra cotta and be done with it. And I would be totally on it too, I really would, except that I have come down with a terrible cold complete with body aches and a nose that runs like a faucet. So instead I will go back to bed with a pile of hankies and a warm tea, putting those self-preserving powers of denial to work for one more day.
Sure we’re already mid-way into the growing season but it’s not too late to plant seeds and it is certainly not too late to buy seeds with pretty packaging. I found these Asian seeds by Kitazawa Seed Co. at Soko Hardware in an Francisco’s Japantown and could not resist their understated but well-designed packages for my collection.
I plan to try out the watercress seeds immediately as an experiment and will use the daikon seeds in my sprouter. I already have my shiso crop in place for this year and being hardy self-seeders probably won’t need the seeds next year but I thought, What the hey, and bought them anyways.
Browsing through the website I can see that they have a huge selection of Asian veggies and herbs that I have never seen anywhere else. Check out ‘Tankuro’, a black seeded soybean, ‘Japanese Long Scarlet‘ an elongated, red radish, and ‘Kurogoma‘ black sesame seeds! Too late and too much for this year but possibles for next year’s experiments.