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Fresh at Farmers Markets This Week

shiso

Have you tried shiso? This herb, also called perilla, is in the mint family and is most familiar as the garnish on a sushi platter. But it has many more culinary uses—and you can get it now at multiple farmers tailgate markets from Lee’s One Fortune Farm.

The Lees’ shiso is dark purple and green, though common varieties are also emerald green. The distinctive taste might be described as the progeny of cumin and basil. Some detect a note of anise and cinnamon as well. It can be eaten raw, usually thinly sliced, or cooked, often steamed with rice or in stir fry dishes. A straightforward way to introduce shiso into your kitchen is to simply add it to some farm-fresh scrambled eggs.

Shiso also pairs well with early-season cucumbers, which start turning up at markets about now (we’ve spotted them from Headwaters Market Garden at Asheville City Market, but more are on the way). You can use shiso to flavor pickled cucumbers. Or try it in a marinated cucumber salad with rice wine vinegar and sesame oil. Shiso can also add depth to a bowl cold soba noodles with cucumber and sautéed shiitake mushrooms (pick up mushrooms from Asheville Fungi or Myco-Gardens at Asheville City Market, West Asheville Tailgate Market, and North Asheville Tailgate Market).

A less conventional—but tasty—combo is shiso and strawberry. Traditionally shiso is used with fermented plums in Japanese cuisine, but you should take advantage of the abundance of strawberries available now from a plethora of market vendors. A shiso-strawberry soda or shrub would make the perfect porch-sipping beverage. Or preserve the season’s bounty with shiso-strawberry jam.

Of course it’s too early in the season to even be talking about tomatoes, but file this one away for later use: tomato, tofu, and shiso makes for a fun take on the caprese salad. Use a sesame oil-soy sauce-sherry vinegar dressing in place of the traditional balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

For now, revel in the current spring produce available at markets, which also includes asparagus, green garlic, spring onions, leeks, radishes, carrots, turnips, beets, snow peas, lettuces, spinach, chard, kale, Chinese broccoli, and bok choy. You can also find bread, meats, fish, ferments, honey, pastries, and so much more.

Area farmers tailgate markets take place throughout the region. As always, you can find information about farms, tailgate markets, and farm stands, including locations and hours, by visiting ASAP’s online Local Food Guide at appalachiangrown.org.

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