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Productive Plant – Shiso

by Debbie Bassingthwaighte

Botanical Name: Perilla frutescens

Common Names:  Japanese Perilla

Description: This Japanese culinary herb is a very aromatic plant with both deep purple (red) and green varieties.  Shiso is an annual to 80cm high, and prefers a sunny open position in moist, fertile, well-drained soil.  The seeds germinate at 20 – 22°C and are best sown in spring and summer.  The flowers attract bees and butterflies and the foliage is ornamental and highly fragrant through summer and autumn. 

Culinary Uses: With a unique vibrant flavour (a mix of mint, basil, liquorice, anise, cinnamon and ginger), its frilly young leaves are added to salads, used to wrap sushi, served with sashimi or tempura, and as an ornamental garnish.  The leaves are also used to add colour to pickles and preserved ginger.  The seeds are an essential part of the famous seven spices of Japan, originating over 300 years ago in Kyoto.

Other Uses: Shiso leaves (with a squeeze of lemon) make a delicious herbal tea that has anti-inflammatory properties and has been traditionally used to treat colds, flu and coughs, to stimulate appetite, and to relieve nausea, hayfever, and dermatitis.