I love Vietnamese style spring rolls as an easy meal – carbs, vegetables, and protein all in a convenient tube-like container with the bursts of flavor from fresh herbs. I asked a co-worker what’s the magic combination of herbs to use, and she said “I don’t know the names, but there’s the spiky leaf one which is very important”, in addition to Thai basil, and mint. The “spiky leaf” one – and I just went to the Asian grocery store and just bought the package with the spiky leaves – is called tía tô or Red/Purple Perilla. From what I gather it and Japanese shiso are in the same family, although it has a stronger flavor. I’ve seen it described as minty or licorice-y. To me it just has that “ah, there’s that third flavor that goes with wasabi and sashimi” quality to it.
Last year I threw down some seeds as my in-laws said it grew like a weed in their home in Georgia….and nothing popped up. Drat. I’ve also tried to grow “Thai basil” in the past, but I was always disappointed because it seemed like my basil leaves never sized up to the type of basil served with pho. It was only recently I learned that the Thai basil plants I was getting, Siam Queen, is actually NOT the type I was looking for. Pho basil is actually a variety known as cinnamon basil. What a revelation!
I want plentiful bushels of herbs in the garden – don’t you just hate buying those packages of herbs, using the little bit you want, and having the rest go bad on you? (Ahem, basil, rosemary, I’m looking at you.) Asian herbs are pretty cheap (thanks Asian grocery store prices!) but it is a waste. And I want plenty of plants so I don’t feel bad harvesting heavily whenever the mood strikes. Since my seeds went nowhere last year, this year I decided to plant by propagation, which is quite easy to do with herbs! I bought a package each of tía tô and basil as my starter plants. (Mint being one that I have growing already and it hardly needing any encouragement as mint so often takes over.)
- Trim off the ends under running water, at an angle.
- Gently scrape the skin on the ends of the stems.
- Remove the lower leaves and some of the larger leaves. You don’t really need them, as you are encouraging the plant to set out roots.
- If you have a plant rooting hormone, you can dab it on the ends of the stems. AJ don’t have any and this method still works fine for herbs.
- Set into a container of water – try to avoid having any of the leaves in the water (unlike the picture I have below), as they will cause the leaves to go bad.
- Change the water if it starts to look scummy, and wait!
- 1. Since I started these, I have read that dabbing the ends in cinnamon will help prevent mold/fungus growth while you wait for it to root. I’m going to try that next time!
- 2. Every time I break off a stem to use some herbs, I just use the top leaves and leave the bottom stem with a few leaves intact. Then I can propagate that stem and add to my collection. 🙂
Here’s my tía tô at 7-10 days, the roots are already growing! The basil hasn’t rooted yet, but the stems haven’t wilted (died) so it’ll just probably take awhile longer. When the roots are a little bit longer, you can pot up your plants in dirt and each stem will become a new plant! Way easier and faster than seed. 🙂
And in the meantime, you can enjoy this fragrant living bouquet in your house! That’s it! I have done this often with herbs, and I hear it works with many other plants. What else would you propagate? What do you have or plan to have in your herb gardens this year?