Oakland-based Kitazawa Seed Company has been operating for nearly 100 years, selling seeds for over 400 varieties of non-GMO Asian herbs and vegetables. Commercial growers and home gardeners alike reach for the familiar manila packets with their classic green ink designs when they want to grow plants that can help cooks achieve authentic tastes when preparing Asian dishes.
If you’d like to experiment with growing traditional herbs and vegetables but aren’t sure where to start, try the easy-to-grow, reliable choices below. Plant the seeds in a container on your terrace or sow directly in your garden beds.
Mitsuba, Japanese wild parsley, is an aromatic perennial, a bit like chervil. It’s delicious chopped and mixed with fresh, lightly dressed summer vegetable salads.
Radish sprouts like All Purple are ready to eat within a week and add a bit of spice and pretty eggplant or green color to dishes.
Perilla, or shiso, a classic Japanese herb with frilled leaves, is not always easy to find fresh. The red variety tastes like anise and is less spicy than the green variety, which tastes more like cinnamon. Leaves are rich in calcium and iron and can be used for seasoning, coloring, pickling, and garnishing.
Kinh Gioi, a minty, lemony herb used in many Vietnamese dishes, is similar in scent and flavor to lemon verbena and lemongrass.
Kitazawa seeds can be found at local garden shops like Flowerland and Berkeley Horticultural Nursery, or purchased online at Kitazawa.com.