A few years ago someone in my community garden planted shiso, both the green and red variety.  It happily naturalized itself and now self sows and comes up everywhere.  I never paid it much attention and generally weeded it out of my vegetable plot.  At the end of the season last year a few of us ordered sushi one evening and someone had the brilliant idea to wrap each piece in shiso before we ate it.  I was surprised by it's anise-like flavor, somewhere between mint and fennel.  Since then I've been waiting to experiment with this new addition to my palette.

 Shiso, otherwise known as perilla (Perilla frutescens) is originally from Japan but has naturalized widely in the US and Canada.  I'm so far only familiar with the red shiso, which is used to dye umeboshi plums and paste.  It's rich in vitamins and minerals and has strong anti-inflammatory properties.

Use shiso like basil, adding it to cooking just at the end.  It pairs beautifully with tuna and is used in Japanese, Vietnamese and Korean cooking.  It's also a wonderful addition to a fruit salad.  For more ideas on how to cook with shiso check out this great article in the L.A.Times.

Of course I had to wonder what shiso vodka would be like so over the holiday weekend I whipped up a batch.  The red leaves lend a lovely pink color to the fragrant and refreshing liquid making it perfect for summer drinking.  I see it with muddled fresh cucumber.  Cocktail forthcoming!