Cooking Japanese food using fresh herbs and vegetables in season results in flavorful, fresh and healthy dishes. In the month of July, edamame and shiso are both in season in Japan, and can be used in a variety of tasty dishes!

The warmer month of July brings forth a fresh, delicious crop of vegetables and herbs. In Japan, where fresh vegetables are highly prevalent in cuisine, the choices during this time are bountiful. Vibrant, aromatic and flavorful, shiso is a wonderful herb that makes many appearances in Japanese dishes. Edamame is also in season in July. And it serves a number of culinary uses as well.

Edamame are immature soybeans. While it’s easy to find frozen edamame in many supermarkets in the United States, Asian supermarkets and grocery stores might have fresh edamame available during the summer months. And look for shiso labeled under other names more common in American grocery stores, such as Japanese mint or perilla.

Tips for Choosing the Best Edamame in Season

If you can find fresh edamame in season in July, it will likely be still attached to the branches. The youngest branches will have leaves that are still bright green, and the edamame pods should have a large amount of small hairs on them. Avoid any branches with leaves that are turning brown or dying.

The immature soybeans are especially healthy, high in protein, and rich in a number of vitamins and minerals. Edamame also contains properties that help improve blood sugar, may possibly lower cholesterol and could reduce the risks of breast and prostate cancer.

Spicy Garlic Edamame

This easy-to-make recipe featuring edamame as the main ingredient can be enjoyed as a tasty snack or as a side dish with a larger meal. Using defrosted or fresh edamame, garlic, soy sauce and some chili pepper, a quick stir-fry results in a highly flavorful dish. It’s delicious with a cold beer!

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Tips for Choosing the Best Shiso in Season

There are actually two main types of shiso you can find: green and red. The red has limited uses and is primarily mixed with salads or used for pickling. You’ll want to look for fresh green shiso, which is perfect for salads and soups. It is also great for garnishing and flavoring many other dishes, including chicken, fish, beef and pasta.

The best shiso leaves should appear fresh and dark green. If you see any leaves that have appeared to change color or are much larger than the others, avoid them.

In addition to a wide range of culinary use, shiso offers several health benefits and has been used as an herbal remedy in Japan for centuries. Containing vitamin A, iron, and calcium, shiso also has anti-inflammatory properties and improves the immune system.

Eryngii and Octopus Pasta

This Japanese pasta dish delivers a large dose of umami. This recipe uses a number of flavorful Japanese ingredients, including shiso, sake, soy sauce, and eryngii mushrooms, along with octopus and chili peppers. The finished dish is a unique fusion of Italian and Japanese cuisine, and unlike any pasta dish you’ve ever tasted!

Try finding these fresh ingredients and using them in the above recipes. You’ll gain a new appreciation for cooking Japanese food in season.

Learn more about shiso leaves here!