In this edition of Herb Notes, we feature two herbs that may be new to you: shiso, which is growing in the culinary garden (behind the greenhouse), and yerba buena, which is ready to harvest from the tea garden (located at the back of the area called Penelope’s Garden*, on the other side of the Children’s Garden from the culinary herbs).
As always, before you harvest any herbs, please check the board at the kiosk for details about individual herbs. If you have any questions regarding herbs while you are gathering your share, you can ask a farm staff member.
Shiso (pictured in the photo above) is a member of the mint family. It is also known as Japanese basil or perilla. It has large teardrop-shaped leaves with a slightly prickly texture and pointy, jagged edges. Its flavor is pungent and grassy, containing strong notes of spearmint, basil, anise and cinnamon. Slicing shiso into long skinny strips really brings out these flavors.
You can use shiso pretty much any way you would usually use basil or mint. It pairs well with a wide variety of other foods and flavors, including rice, noodles and pasta, tofu, avocado, cucumber, mushrooms, tomato, ginger and soy sauce, sesame, fish and shellfish, pork and many fruits.
In Japanese, Korean, and Southeast Asian cuisines, shiso is most often used as a wrapping or to flavor soups and rice. It can also be tossed into a stir-fry, ground up into a pesto sauce, tossed with some sesame seed oil and soba noodles, or used in cocktails such as a shiso julep.
Here are some ways we like shiso best:
- julienned and sprinkled on a simple citrus or mixed green salad.
- tossed into a pot of your favorite green tea
- minced into or used as as a leaf wrap for tuna salad (shiso is really great with tuna).
- chopped with fresh fruit (plums, especially)
- chopped and added to roasted or stir-fried veggies.
- as a leaf wrap for barbecued meat or tofu.
- in scrambled eggs, especially with a generous spoonful of unsweetened yogurt.
Yerba buena has a variety of culinary, cosmetic and medicinal uses. Its minty flavor makes it popular for culinary applications. It’s used both in salads and as flavoring for cooked foods. The Yerba Buena aroma is also used for scents and fragrances, and the herb has been used for the treatment of many ailments since ancient times.
Common health-related applications of Yerba Buena include:
- Drink Yerba Buena tea to relieve headaches, stomachaches and toothaches, as well as as an expectorant if you have a cough or cold.
- Make a poultice to alleviate rheumatism, arthritis and headaches. Crush the fresh leaves, squeeze the sap and massage sap on painful areas with eucalyptus.
- Brew a mouthwash for swollen gums and toothaches. Steep 6 grams of the fresh plant in a glass of boiling water for 30 minutes. Gargle the solution.
- Relieve menstrual or gas pain. Drinking an infusion induces menstrual flow and sweating.
- Relieve nausea and fainting with the herb’s minty scent: Crush the leaves and apply at nostrils of patients .
- Treat insect bites. Crush the leaves and apply the juice, or pound the leaves into a paste and rub it on the affected area.
—Sara and Christine
*Penelope’s Garden is named for Penelope Turton, a long-time farmer of the Stearns Farm land. In a recent interview, Nina Kornstein, one of the earliest Stearns Farm CSA sharers, recalled her memories of Penelope. Please take time to explore Penelope’s Garden. If you are interested in learning more about this area, we would love your help to tend it. Please contact us!