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Growing and Selling Fresh-Cut Herbs
Growing & Selling  
                Fresh-Cut Herbs
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Growing and Selling
Fresh-Cut Herbs

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Herb of the Month

Over the next year, the herb of the month feature will focus on those unusual herbs that a professional grower may occasionally be asked to supply.  These profiles are supplied by Herbalpedia


Perilla frutescens

Family: Labiatae

Description: This group of plants contains many annuals, however, only one is commonly grown in gardens. P. frutescens will grow about 3 feet high and is bushy and self-branching. The leaves resemble those of the Sweet Basil, but may also be ruffled. They are fuzzy, dark purple or green and grow up to 3 inches long.  This plant is found wild in India and China and belongs to the Mint family. Flowers small, white to purple, with a ring of hairs in the throat of the 5-lobed corolla; borne in terminal panicles or singly in the axils of leaves. Found throughout the south in pastures, fields, roadsides, about home sites and waste places. The Green’s flowers are small, white to purple, with a ring of hairs in the throat of the 5-lobed corolla; borne in terminal panicles or singly in the axils of leaves.   Both of the varieties are resistant to heat and humidity and they mature so quickly that they can be cultivated in northern states with success. Home gardeners usually confuse the purple Perilla with purple Basil. Though both of these plants can escape the garden, Perilla may become a weed, while Basil is easily controlled.

Cultivation: These plants should be grown, 6 to 12 inches apart, in well-drained, moist soil and have exposure to sun half the day or more. In warm, humid weather, these plants grow quickly and should have their tops pinched off to maintain a neat appearance. They may be fed with plant food. The whole plants may be taken for cooking, or just the tender tips of mature plants.  Seeds that have been pre-chilled a week in the refrigerator may be started indoors at a 65- to 70-degree temperature, 6 to 8 weeks before it's safe to plant outdoors. They should be sown in pots filled with sifted compost consisting of loam and leaf mold, with a sprinkling of sand. Cover the seeds lightly with soil and place a piece of glass over the container. If kept moist, they will soon germinate and quickly grow. They may also be sown outdoors where they are to grow when the soil is warm. Don't cover the seeds because they need light to germinate. They often re-seed themselves.  Keep picking the flowers to promote new leaf growth.

Culinary Uses: The young leaves, seedling plants and seeds are used in different ways in the Orient.  The flavor of the red perilla differs from that of the green: the red is considered stronger tasting and spicier and is often used for its red coloring. Green perilla is much prized in Japan, where its leaves, tender shoots, and flowers are used as a garnish.  The flowers have a very clean, meadowy taste.  Green perillas has a somewhat cinnamonlike flavor and in sushi it is wrapped around rice or fish. (Perilla has a folk reputation as an antidote to fish poisoning.)  The red perilla leaves taste a little of anise and are dried and sprinkled over rice.  The tiny seedling plants of red perilla are used as seasoning for sliced raw fish, the leaves are used to flavor bean curd and as a garnish for tempura and the seeds are used in tempura and in making pickles. The fresh purple leaves give color to pickled apricots, plums, eggplants, ginger and Chinese artichokes and flavor to cucumbers, pickles, tempura and bean curd.  Chinese cooks generally prefer the pungent red perilla to the green one and use it for flavoring seafood and in pickling.

Chicken, Rice and Pine Nuts Wrapped in Shiso Leaves
Oil for frying
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 oz rice, cooked
4 oz chicken, cooked and diced
1 Tbsp pine nuts
1 tsp tarragon, finely chopped
1 tsp thyme, finely chopped
1 tbsp green perilla flowers
16 green perilla leaves
            Heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the onion until soft and translucent.  Add the rice, chicken, pine nuts, tarragon, thyme and two teaspoons of perilla flowers.  Mix altogether and cook for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat.  Prepare the perilla leaves by putting some boiling water into a bowl and dipping each leaf in turn into the very hot water and then placing it flat on a board.  Into eight of the leaves, place a teaspoon of the mixture.  Roll the leaf up like a cigar.  Lay out the remaining eight leaves.  Onto each put one stuffed leaf and roll the other way.  This will seal the ‘cigars’ and keep the stuffing in place.  Arrange on a serving plate, cover and chill in a refrigerator.  When ready to serve, scatter the remaining flowers over the perilla leaves as decoration.  Serve as a first course with a vinaigrette (Good Enough to Eat)


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The comprehensive revised edition of Growing and Selling Fresh-Cut Herbs is available from author, most internet booksellers, bookstores, and in libraries.  It can be ordered from the distributor, Independent Publishers Group


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