If you have ever eaten in a Japanese restaurant you might be familiar with a Shiso leaf. They are very common in Japanese food and are similar to the way we use parsley but they are also quite delicious. Some people refer to Shiso as beefsteak plant. It comes in a red/purplish type as well as green varieties.
There are also frilly, ruffled-leaved forms called chirimen-jiso and forms that are red only on top, called katamen-jiso. The most popular form is green but I like purple as well. The purple-red type may be known as akajiso.
The scientific name for this plant variety is Perilla.
A whole leaf of green shiso is often used as a receptacle to hold wasabi. The green leaf can be chopped up and used as herb or condiments for an assortment of cold dishes such as: cold noodles or soba, cold tofu, to flavor any number of fillings or batter to be cooked, and hundreds of other uses. It is very versatile and once you taste it you will likely think of lots of great ways you can spice up some old recipes. It is very good for example chopped up in any type of pasta salad or in traditional salads. I have also chopped it up to flavor meat, poultry, and even chicken.
The simplified rule of thumb is that you can use shiso pretty much anywhere you would normally use basil or mint because it is sort of a combination of those two flavors.
Shiso is very easy to grow and will make a wonderful addition to your outdoor or indoor herb garden. It is also a beautiful plant and is supposed to help ward off mosquitoes and other pests. Chances are you are unlikely to be able to find Perilla plants or seeds locally but luckily I can verify a great source online for seeds. Now is the perfect time to buy some seeds and add this wonderful addition to your garden.
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Plant perilla seedlings 6-12 inches apart in well-drained but moist soil with full to partial sun exposure or direct sow them in well-drained soil and lightly cover. The shiso seeds will germinate rapidly at 68 degrees F.
Perilla shiso care requires a medium amount of water. If the weather is exceedingly warm and humid, the plants’ tops should be pinched back to encourage bushier, less rangy plant growth.
Flowers of the growing perilla mint bloom from July to October and are white to purple, attaining their maximum height of 6 inches to 3 feet tall before dying off during the coming frost. After the first year of growing perilla mint plants, they will easily self-seed in successive seasons.