2.39 Shiso or Perilla.

Botanical name: 

Photo: Perilla frutescens. This entire entry is (c) 1999 by Terry J. Klokeid, Amblewood Organic Farm, klokeid . victoria.tc.ca

Latin name: Perilla frutescens
Japanese name
: Shiso (Varietal names are aojiso and akajiso)
Other names: Fanciful names exist, e.g. cinnamon plant, beefsteak plant

2.39.1 Growing Shiso

Shiso definitely demands to be treated like a warm weather annual plant. Set it out in pots or plant it outside when it's warm, in full sun. Or keep it as a houseplant or in the greenhouse. Shiso seems to have no particular pests apart from earwigs, and is not eaten by deer.

We have had shiso grow successfully in a variety of conditions, from constantly wet soil near a pond, to very well- drained soil - having dried out because one of us always forgets to water. But shiso can't stand crowding, and it does need an adequate quantity of good soil, unlike many herbs.

2.39.2 Harvesting Shiso

Just pluck a few big, healthy shiso leaves when you want to eat 'em.

2.39.3 Using / Preserving Shiso

Shiso is popular in Japan to give flavouring and/or colour to just about anything: tempura, sashimi, tofu, pickles.

The leaves of the green variety, aojiso, may be served as a garnish like parsely, and may be sprinkled with shoyu (soy sauce). They can be used in salads and to flavour sweetpotatoes.

In Japan, we have also enjoyed home-cooked tempura with leaves of shiso cooked in it, just like a vegetable. Young shiso shoots are eaten with sashimi (raw fish). Shiso leaves are included with mixed vegetables preserved in miso (a paste of fermented soy and cereal).

The saved seeds from shiso are sometimes used on baked goods, like sesame seeds, and are referred to as egoma.

The red or purple variety, akajiso, is the preferred variety in Japan for adding flavour and scarlet colour to umeboshi -pickled sour plums- and preserved ginger.

Some people find the taste very strong at first, so it's worth tasting just a part of a leaf.

Other uses include red or pink food colouring and an edible oil from the seed (which has also been used for paints).

Shiso leaves rapidly lose flavour and aroma when dried, so this is not a suitable way to preserve shiso.

2.39.4 Which Shiso do you have?

Thre are two varieties:
1. Aojiso, Green Perilla
2. Akajiso, Purple Perilla (or sometimes Red Perilla)

Selections have been made for ornamental features. For example, the 'lanciniata' variety of akajiso has more deeply serrated leaves than common akajiso.