Thursday, September 17, 2020

Sesame leaf - stalked from behind


The secret undersides of sesame leaf. Backlit in the morning sunlight.

I use its toothed leaves as wraps for deviled eggs or spicy meatballs, or folded around quick-pickled vegetables. Or I sliver then soften them in good soy (try Ohsawa nama Shoyu) for 30 minutes and transform warm seven-minute eggs or steamed eggs with the aromatic dressing.

What's in a name? 

If it's a common name - that is, the lingua franca for a plant (or animal or fungus) in any given region, versus the Latin and Greek binomial, or scientific name - things can be confusing. Because sesame? This plant is not even vaguely related to sesame-the-crunchy-seed (that would be Sesamum indicum). Common names are notoriously confusing. Instead, the burgundy-shadowed leaf belongs to Perilla. Specifically Perilla frutescens var. frutescens

Nope, not shiso

Are your eyes glazing over, yet? Snap out of it! Because this herb is often sold incorrectly as shiso, and shiso it ain't. The plants above are sesame leaf, not shiso. Even the grower (at the Grand Army Plaza  greenmarket) got it wrong. Sesame leaf (above) sturdier and less aromatic than shiso, but its rose-petal flavor is very similar. 

This is shiso. Shiso is...tighten your seatbelts: Perilla frutescens var. crispa! I know! Just one door down from sesame leaf, in terms of classification. And she - shiso - has frilly leaf-edges. Forgive me for going Jar-Jar Binx on you, but if you think, "Shiso frilly," you'll know shiso when you see it. She may be red, or green. But she be frilly. 

And why does it matter? Because facts always do, despite Trumpiverse. 

Shiso is associated more with Japanese cuisine, is highly aromatic, but otherwise tastes similar to the rougher sesame leaf, which is traditionally beloved in Korean cuisine.

I grow both. 

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Walk with me at the NYBG 

15 October

1 comment:

  1. I love it when you go all plant-nerd! And, I love learning the Latin names. Sometimes when I'm weeding (often this time of year!) I find myself reciting the Latin names that I know and wondering about the rest. It's a good mental work out for gardeners. I mean, don't we all want to know the proper names of our friends? It takes us beyond "acquaintance" and and into "friendship". Thanks for this lesson.

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