A Shiso Watch—telling time in the garden

A garden, if only a few pots of plants, follows its own pace. In spite of the very hot dry weather during this past week, my herbs have produced a growth spurt.

I will admit to being lax about dragging the hose into positions to water them properly. None the less, it was time to pinch the top growth of leaf pairs to encourage the plants to become bushy rather than tall.
By encouraging new branches, I think it discourages the plants from producing the hormones which will make them flower, go to seed, then die too soon.
Note that the pinched stem reveals shiso’s relationship to the mint family:
a square stem!
Note also that the pic with the cats is a bit deceptive. Unless you look closely you can’t see that some of the green in front of the AC unit is in fact elephant ears.
Shiso is sometimes known for its large leaves. 大きい葉 is ohba, which literally means ‘large leaves’ in Japanese. But the elephant ears are so so much larger: up to 3 feet!! But don’t use them to wrap and eat food. They are poisonous. I wanted some plants to hide the AC unit. Unfortunately in this climate the plant is not hardy. The bulbs must be dug up in the fall and re-planted in spring. Next year I’ll try starting them in February or March to give them a headstart to hide the mechanics.
I look on this event as the first small harvest. And at least a simple lunch…

Shio Miso Tomato Pasta with Cheese
serves 2

  • A small handful of fresh shiso leaves
  • 3 kumato tomatoes (or other smallish tomatoes)
  • 1 teaspoon brown miso
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 6 to 8 ounces thin spaghetti
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons panko bread crumbs
  • freshly grated black pepper
  • 2 ounces Parmesan, grated
  • 2 ounces goat cheese, cut into small cubes

Cut the shiso into fine strips: roll and slice the larger leaves, coarsely chop the pinched pairs of top leaves. Reserve a few of the leaf-pairs for garnish.
Roughly chop the tomatoes and place into a small saucepan.

Note: I tried the Kumato type of tomato because so many folks have recommended it for its great flavor. Its skin a medium-brown chocolate color but the flesh is lovely red. I found it tasty and juicy, as well as a bit expensive. The fruit is about the size of a tennis ball so it is a good tomato for a salad, but the skin is quite thick.

Warm the tomatoes to just below a simmer. Stir to dissolve the miso into their liquid. Stir in the soy sauce.
Cook the spaghetti according to package directions.
Toss the pasta with olive oil, pepper, and panko. The panko will adhere to the strands of spaghetti.
Mix in the grated Parmesan, then the chopped shiso. Finally toss with the goat cheese. The Parmesan will melt and should stick to the hot noodles. The goat cheese won’t melt and will provide little bursts of smooth creamy bites.
Arrange the spaghetti in serving bowls. Top with the tomatoes. Garnish with a pair of shiso leaves.

6 thoughts on “A Shiso Watch—telling time in the garden

    • If you’ve eaten sushi you probably have seen shiso. But when the leaves are so young (which one doesn’t see unless you grow the plants) they really are intricate and delicate looking.

  1. This looks and sounds delicious. Love the Italian/Japanese fusion. It’s absolutely freezing here in Melbourne today, so I’m also enjoying reading about your hot weather, and seeing your garden!

  2. I’m a fan of anything with goat’s cheese Tess so I think I would like this! My friend Rosie made me a goats cheese and beetroot tart recently when I was poorly.The colour alone made my heart sing! Love that your sundial is a water lily.

    • Hey Hi!
      We have been on a little vacation to visit my brother in Missouri. Temperatures there were in the 100’s° F but dry. very dry: they cancelled the fireworks for the Fourth of July for fear of burning down the state.
      His pool, and pool floats, and soothing waterfall were an amazing way to enjoy (endure? overcome?) the heat!
      I’m sorry to hear that you were feeling poorly: hope you are back to normal?
      I used to make a sort of salad (Finnish) with beets, herring, onions, and potatoes. It was a singing color and lovely to eat. I made it to serve at our wedding reception… :-)
      My sister gave me that sundial some years ago. It sat in my garden and was overcome with hostas and weeds. Someone stepped on it and broke the gnoman (??). J fixed it this spring.

  3. Wow! That kind of heat can be scary! Hope you were well shaded in the pool. Isn’t water a fine thing! Love the sound of your Finnish salad. (-:

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