Saturday, July 17, 2010

Fragrant Ruby-Red Shiso drink from Japanese summer 'Weeds'

Shiso juice drink, one of the blessings of Japanese summer

Shiso is one of summertime's blessings. It self-seeds in the spring, grows fearlessly through rainy season, unbothered my most pests, and ready to be turned into wonderful summer dishes. It comes in red or green. The flavor is a cinamon-minty, with a kind of face-cream fragrance you don't expect of food. When In Melbourne, I get it from Asian Grocers, called 'Asian Basil', or Perilla.

The last weekend of my spring-summer tokyo stay had me creating a Layer garden at community Garden Lemon in Odawara. Farmer Hoda was the star of the show, dashing off site every time I realized I needed something, and coming back with the goods.
His day of generosity wound up with me doing an evening harvest of the excess shiso at his home garden.

Here is how I turned it into food:

Took it home on the train with our other bundles of mountain vegetables and treasures. My elegant garden-creating friends and I were the first truly dirty people I have seen in a Japanese train these 16 years. What is going on here, I wonder?
The other passengers seemed generous about it, and offered to take our photos.


Easy. Washed the leaves, boiled them 5 minutes in a pot.
The water was murky brown, the red leaves turned to wilted green.
Then...I added the juice from Farmer Hoda's organic Lemons. OOOH! It went a vivid ruby-red.
Next some honey, soda water, and ....' bitter' was the most prominent flavor, not at all like how other people's mothers make it.

Then I doctored it with the honeyed 'drinking vinegar', my farewell present from my dear cameraman Mr. Iwamuro.

Amazingly delicious!

Be patient. Dont give up. Plant shiso seeds this spring - thats the lesson from my adventures in Shiso.

Shiso drink recipies from Obachan's Kitchen

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