The Wonderful World of Shiso
Shiso is an herb that is popular in Asian cuisine. It has been used for thousands of years as a medicinal plant as well as for eating and flavouring.
Seeds are usually available in the Garden Centre by the end of January, and it’s always fun to go through the racks to see what’s new and different. As you browse the through the herb selection you might see one that stands out from the rest, shiso. When we first got it in, I had not seen it before so I decided to do a little research on it.
Shiso is an herb that is popular in Asian cuisine. It has been used for thousands of years as a medicinal plant as well as for eating and flavouring. The entire plant is edible and is nutritious; the leaves are high in calcium and iron. It is sometimes known as ‘Chinese Basil’, ‘beefsteak plant’, and ‘purple mint’ which makes sense as it is a member of the lamiaceae family, or mint family. We typically carry two varieties of seeds: The Red Perilla and the Green Perilla. The Red perilla produces attractive frilly, dark ruby red, leaves that have an anise flavour. Chefs have been known to use the red perilla to colour and flavour vinegar and rice. The green perilla is slightly spicier and has a hint of cinnamon flavour. Leaves can be used to wrap around sushi or served with sashimi as a garnish, and also to add flavour to soups, salad, rolls, and other dishes; the leaves can also be dried and sprinkled on top of dishes for added flavour.
“Growing Shiso is not hard. They are an annual, that have similar growing requirements as basil. Seeds are started indoors, and plants can be placed outdoors after all risk of frost has passed..."
The seeds are hard and could benefit by being soaked in water over night before sowing. Following the directions on the packet, sow seeds in a tray filled with moistened starter mix. After sowing the seeds place a dome on top of the tray and use bottom heat such as a Heat mat to keep soil temperature around 20 Celsius which should help with germination. Once the seeds have germinated (2-3 weeks), remove the dome for air circulation and water carefully not keeping too wet but also not letting them dry out. When the seedlings have a set of true leaves, they can be transplanted into larger containers. The plants can be grown in containers, just like basil, and they are attractive plants and make nice patio decoration when kept in a planter. Shiso is a heat loving plant that prefers full sun, and do not handle any frost. Plant in a fertile, well-drained soil.
To create bushy plants, pinch out the growing tips, and use them in your recipes. To harvest, snip a sprig off the plant just above a set of leaves. Harvest as needed throughout the season and at the end of the season harvest the flowering tops and seeds which can be used for next year’s planting. Shiso may self-sow in the spring, if you leave some seed pods on them.
If you are looking to add something different to your herb garden try planting some Shiso. It is an interesting herb that is both beautiful and tasty!