You’ve probably seen it garnishing a sushi or dipped it in soy sauce as tempura. Shiso or perilla is a culinary herb that brings an Asian influence to your edible garden and a unique flavour to food and drink.
Often referred to as Beefsteak plant, shiso or perilla is an annual plant that is part of the the mint family Lamiaceae. It’s native to Southeast Asia and known as kkaennip or ggaenip in Korean, and Tía Tô i Vietnamese. As a herb, it’s easy to grow in an edible garden, can double as an ornamental and is a low maintenance plant that attracts very few pests.
Types of Shiso Perilla
There are mainly two types of perilla: Perilla frutescens, which comes in red or green, and Perilla frutescens var. crispa, which is purple coloured with curly leaves. If you’re looking at buying seed, you’ll find a few different varieties:
- shiso perilla Japanese green
- shiso perilla Korean green
- shiso perilla purple red
- shiso perilla ‘Britton’ with a green topside and purple underside
Each has a different flavour (see below) and if you have the space, I’d recommend you grow the different varieties.
How to Grow Shiso / Perilla
Shiso / Perilla is an annual and best grown from seed and raised as seedlings. Soak the seeds overnight before sowing to accelerate germination. Sow 1mm deep in spring when temperatures reach 20oC or above as they need some heat to germinate. Don’t cover with too much soil as they need light to germinate. If your area is susceptible to frost, wait until the last frost date before sowing.
Germination can be slow and can take anywhere from 7 to 21 days. Once the seedlings have their first or second true leaves, they can be transplanted to their permanent position. Space the seedlings 30cm apart and plant in moist soil, in full sun though they can tolerate part shade. Shiso grows to a height of 60cm and takes approximately 70 days for mature leaves to form.
Shiso can be grown in containers as well as raised garden bed. I have tried both methods and found no difference in yield. You can pinch the top to encourage more bushy growth but with my plants, I haven’t found that to be necessary.
Shiso Plant Care
Once the plants are established, keep them moist particularly on hot days. If you’re into using liquid fertiliser, you can do so every fortnight. I prefer to prepare the soil beforehand with compost and organic nutrients instead of applying liquid fertiliser. Aside from water and the occasional fertiliser, there’s little else to do maintenance wise.
Shiso attracts very few pest and if like mine, your garden is prone to having sap sucking insects, you’ll see the white spots on the leaves as per the first photo. The good news is, leaves are still edible.
Harvesting & Seed Saving
Shiso leaves can be harvested when they reach maturity around 70 days. At the end of the growing season and the start of autumn, the plant forms flowers which then turn to seed. These can be harvested and stored until the next season.
Culinary Uses of Shiso Perilla
When it comes to taste, the green Japanese & Korean perilla have very different flavours. I grew both varieties one summer and I didn’t like the latter. Korean shiso leaves are coarse and have a pungent, earthy almost musky flavour that is difficult to describe compared to the more gentle, minty and peppery flavour of Japanese shiso.
The red and purple shiso lend a purplish hue to food and are often used in pickling such as in umeboshi, the Japanese sour plum pickle.
Shiso leaves can be used in tempura, salads, food wrap, Korean style BBQ, kimchi as well as used in tea. The leaves can be pickled as in Korean Kkaennip Jangajji where the leaves are marinated overnight in soy sauce, chilli flakes, garlic, brown sugar, spring onions and red chillis.
Shiso Perilla in Cocktails
Shiso perilla leaves can be used in a variety of ways in drinks. They can be used as a garnish, slapped between the palm of the hand like mint to release their aromas. They can replace mint in some cocktails such as in the Julep. The leaves can be made into a shiso syrup and used in cocktails such as the Shiso Cuce Cocktail which combines cucamelon with shiso and tequila.
SHISO PERILLA GROWING GUIDE AT A GLANCE
For temperate climate (Sydney, Australia)
- Sowing Season: spring, after frost, when temperatures are 20oC or above
- Sowing Method: raise seedlings, need sun to germinate
- Position: full sun, can tolerate part shade
- Seed Preparation: soak seeds overnight in water
- Sowing Depth: 1mm
- Plant Spacing: 30cm
- Plant Height: 60 to 70cm
- Germination: 7 to 21 days
- Time to Maturity/Harvest: 70 days
- Water Requirements: moist soil
Want to Know More?
You’ll find more information on how to grow shiso, which varieties to try, how to pair it with food and spirits, and how to use shiso in cocktails including a full recipe in my 260+ page digital book GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN available now.