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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Late Summer Gardens

Have I been remiss in my writing?  Yes, and no.  My business has been SO busy this year that I have barely even thought about writing in the blog, let alone my other ones.  I've often worked from sun to sun and on multiple jobs during the same day.  Today I'm stuck at home, due to a worn out water pump and timing chain replacement in my pickup truck.  I had just purchased new tires, a nearly $800 expense, when my truck started overheating.  I was driving along in traffic on a side road, an older black lady in a somewhat beat up sedan next to me, when I started noticing that maple syrup-like smell of propylene glycol.  Thinking it was emanating from the aforementioned lady's car, I started considering getting her attention.  Then  something diverted my attention, and I was arriving at my destination to start some work.  When I began coming to a stop, I smelled it again, and realized it was MY truck with the problem.  Anyway, the mechanic called to say that my truck is done and I should come and pick it up.  The problem is, I am stranded at home.  Oh, well...

So today, I occupied some of my time with doing some weeding out in some of my garden beds.  My gardens are replete with every sort of garden plant, and weed.  I even have something that is supposed to be a useful garden plant, but has proved itself, despite a definite degree of beauty, to be a highly invasive and hard to control little pest plant - Perilla.  Perilla is a member of the mint family, and as such is an aggressive grower.  It mostly spreads via seed dispersal.  It is also known as Shiso in Japan, Chinese Basil, Beefsteak Plant, and many other titles.  Botanically, it is called Perilla frutescens.

Perilla is originally an Asian plant, but has been included in the cuisines of many disparate cultures, and is grown and/or is naturalized all over the planet.  I have no idea how it ended up in my gardens, but it is growing vigorously.  It is a striking and beautiful addition to my gardens, but like most mints, Perilla is potentially very invasive.  Luckily, it is also fairly easy to pull out!

Here are some shots of the little dickens:

Perilla frutescens

Beefsteak Plant
Beautiful, but invasive Perilla

Perilla frutescens

Perilla in my tomato patch

So there you have it.  Perilla, Beefsteak Plant, Chinese Basil, Purple Mint, are all usable names for this useful plant.  I say useful, but I've never used it to date.  My younger son periodically makes a beverage from the plant, as he does from Lemon Balm, and seems to enjoy it.  The smell is minty, with a hint of cinnamon, and anise.  It is used in many Asian and Latin American dishes, though I've not looked any up yet.  You can actually find it for sale in markets geared toward those "two" cuisines.  

Check back to find updates to this article, at which time I may have tried using this plant in my cooking...