Also called perilla, shiso is a valuable culinary herb capable of giving an edible garden more of an Asian influence. As one of the most frequently used herbs in cooking Japanese foods, it is a great addition to your garden, especially if you are fond of Japanese cuisine and Asian dishes.
Get to know more about how to grow shiso (perilla) and make it a part of your garden through this article.
|Perilla frutescens var. crispa / Mint family
|Tender annual plant
|Southeast Asia, Japan
|Zones 1 to 11
|Size and form of the plant:
|Bushy mass with a growth of around 45 to 91 cm or 18 to 36 inches tall
|Warm to hot climates while being in partial shade. This plant is also not cold-tolerant and frost-hardy.
|Late summer, early fall
|Lavender, white, or pink blooms found on the spikes
|Leaf shape and design:
|Textured green, reddish-purple, or broadly oval that also boasts of a metallic sheen
Short Description of Shiso
Shiso (perilla) refers to a Japanese plant that belongs to the mint family. It has a considerable resemblance to a large basil plant. It also has leaves known for its tangy and distinctive taste, almost similar to mint, nutmeg, cumin, and anise combined. This combination also somewhat brings out a unique minty aroma.
Related: Learn how to prune basil plants
Another name used to refer to the shiso is the beefsteak plant. This member of the mint family is also a native plant to Southeast Asia.
Just like other herbs, this one is easy to grow. You can cultivate it in a garden filled with edible plants, but it also works as a low-maintenance and ornamental plant capable of attracting only a few pests.
Types of Shiso
Shiso perilla has two major types, namely:
The Perilla Frutescens type encompasses the standard green and red shiso plants. The red shiso is known for having a slightly bitter taste than the green shiso. You can use the red shiso in pickling, like a Japanese sour plum pickle, and in cooked dishes.
The green shiso, meanwhile, is ideal for use on salads and wrapped sushi. You can also chop your green shiso to incorporate it into noodles dishes that are either cold or hot.
Perilla Frutescens Var. Crispa
This second shiso perilla type features curly leaves with a purple shade. In most cases, this shiso perilla variety is used as bedding. Some countries also consider it a weed as it is toxic and not safe for livestock.
Other Known Varieties
Here are also other famous varieties that you need to familiarize yourself with if you are interested in growing shiso at home:
- Akajiso, which comes with red leaves and is ideal for use in preparing refreshing drinks
- Crispa, which has wrinkled and ruffled bright green leaves – This variety is famous in various Japanese cuisines – one of which is hiyayakko.
- Atropurpurea, which features dark purple perilla leaves – You can also usually find this variety in traditional medicines.
- Aojiso, which comes with green leaves – You can use it as an herb when preparing cold noodle dishes.
Benefits of Growing Shiso
Shiso can provide many benefits for anyone who decides to use the herb in their cooking or make it a part of their garden. The following are just some benefits of this unique plant that should also serve as viable reasons why you should ensure that shiso grows in your garden.
Has antiviral and anti-allergy properties
You can even use shiso leaves to treat asthma. The mentioned properties are also among the significant reasons why the shiso herb helps deal with sunstroke and nausea, stimulates sweating, and relieves muscle pain caused by fever or flu.
Works as an effective antibacterial and antioxidant herb
The fact that it contains antioxidant and antibacterial properties also makes it effective in strengthening your immune system. It also helps in developing more vital cells within your body.
Serves as an alternative medicine
For centuries, the Japanese have considered the Shiso plant a highly effective alternative medicine. Some even improved its flavor, making it easier to consume.
For instance, some make shiso tea from its leaves. The plant’s brewed tea is said to be tasty, so many people were able to enjoy it and its medicinal and health benefits. You can also eat this herb or use it in its tincture form.
It offers a lot of culinary uses
Your decision to plant shiso in your garden is also a great idea as it will give you easy access to an herb widely used in the kitchen. You can use its leaves in rice, tempura, and soups. You can also wrap them around your sushi.
Another thing that you can do with it is to shred it and incorporate it into your fish taco. The leaves are also great substitutes for parsley. All you have to do is to mix the leaves with sesame seeds and soy sauce.
The mixture also works as a tasty marinade for your grilled chicken or meat.
Suitable for your overall health
Shiso also carries a lot of nutrients and properties that are good for your overall health. It has plenty of antioxidants and allergy-fighting and anti-inflammatory properties. You can use this herb as a remedy for eczema, asthma, and arthritis.
The leaves are also among the best ingredients you can incorporate into your recipes, including stews, soups, and chicken salad, because of their high nutrition content. Vitamin A, iron, Omega-3 fatty acids, and calcium are among the nutrients you can get from it.
Shiso is one of those plants that are not that hard to grow. Here are just a few guidelines when it comes to growing shiso plants and making them survive in your garden:
Choose the best location
The ideal location for you to plant shiso at home successfully would be one where it receives either a light shade or full sun. This means that you will not have difficulty ensuring that your shiso grows as it loves the sun during the summer.
Note, though, that they also favor growing in areas with dappled sunlight. If you intend to put the plant within your home, put it close to the window as this is where they will receive their required sunlight daily.
Use the right soil
Make sure to choose a well-drained soil rich in compost. Also, take note of the ideal acidity that will make this plant thrive and survive. This is around 5.5 to 6.5 pH level.
Know the perfect time to sow the shiso seeds
It is also crucial for you to be aware of when you should sow the shiso seeds indoors. In this case, the best recommendation would be to do it four to six weeks before the last frost in the spring. Expect the seeds to germinate in just around 7 to 21 days.
You can also improve the germination of the seeds. This is possible by soaking the seeds in water for around 24 hours before you sow them.
The Actual Steps in Growing Shiso
This herb is annual and grows best from seeds you will then have to raise as seedlings. As mentioned earlier, you can accelerate the germination process by soaking its seeds overnight. Do this before you sow the seeds.
Here are the steps:
- Sow the seeds around 1 mm deep during the early spring – This should be at a time when there is enough heat for the seeds to germinate.
- Avoid covering the seeds with excessive amounts of soil – The reason is that they need to be exposed to light a bit so they can successfully germinate. If you live in a place that is prone to frost, it would be best to wait for a while before sowing, preferably once the last frost date is done.
- Wait for the seeds to germinate – The germination process may be slow, taking around 7 to 21 days.
- Transplant to a permanent position – This is the step you should take upon seeing the seedlings sprouting their first few true leaves.
- Ensure proper spacing for the seedlings during the transplant – The seedlings should be around 30 cm apart. Plant shiso seeds in soil that has sufficient moisture and under full sun, though, the plant is also capable of withstanding partial shade.
- Wait for them to reach an acceptable height – Note that shiso can reach up to 60 cm high. It would also take around 70 days for the plant to form mature leaves.
The good thing about the plant is that you can grow it in a raised garden bed, pot, or container. Regardless of where you plant it, you will not experience any major differences in its yield. It is also possible for you to stimulate bushier growth by pinching the top of the shiso.
Caring for your Shiso Plant
Once you have successfully planted it, it is time to work on giving them the best care and attention possible to guarantee their healthy growth. Here are just some of its care and maintenance requirements aside from providing sufficient sunlight and proper soil.
Make sure to keep the soil regularly moist. This means you should never let the plant become completely dry, though you also have to prevent overwatering. You can still expect some established plants to grow in soil that is a bit dry but will thrive and survive even better if you ensure that they are in moist soil.
To ensure that the water has proper balance, touch the topsoil to examine the moisture level. If the soil feels dry, you should water the shiso until you notice water coming out of the drainage holes.
Feeding with the Right Fertilizer
As an herb, remember that the shiso can’t be classified as a heavy feeder. You should also avoid fertilizing it too frequently, whether you decide to grow it outdoors or in containers.
Use an all-purpose, water-soluble fertilizer. A wise tip is to feed the plant only occasionally, preferably only once every three to four months. It is also advisable to mulch the pot or container’s top layer with compost.
Another option would be using compost tea to side-dress the plant. Diluting a fish emulsion solution every three to four weeks throughout the growing season can also help.
Other Care and Maintenance Tips
Pinching back its growing tips is highly encouraged to retain its bushy nature. You also have to remove shiso flowers before they open up to prevent the plant from seeding and self-sowing.
Ensure that the garden or planting bed is free of weeds, too. Note that the presence of these weeds means that other things will compete with the herb for moisture and nutrients, so you should work on eliminating them.
Be extra careful during the winter, too. Note that it would be impossible to grow outdoors during the winter as a tender annual.
With that in mind, making the plants grow in a pot or container would be much better. This is more beneficial if you plan to grow shiso indoors during the winter. You should then let the plant grow beneath fluorescent grow lights or put them in a window that exposes them to bright sunlight.
How to Harvest Shiso?
Use gardening shears or scissors to harvest shiso. A wise tip is to cut growth evenly since this plant is sensitive to whatever you expose it to. If harmed, they will no longer be able to grow shoots.
When it is time to harvest, avoid removing over one-third of the overall mass of the herb at just a single time. The reason is that it may stop their future growth.
You may also handpick the leaves and flowers. Do not force or abruptly pull the fruits, too. It would still be best for you to use the most appropriate materials for harvesting, like shears and scissors, to prevent potential damage to their cells.
One sign that the plant is already ready for harvest is when it finally blooms its flowers. You can do a safe harvest from late summer to early fall.
How to Dry Shiso?
Drying shiso perilla plants is often important for you to use in a wide range of culinary dishes and recipes, including Vietnamese summer rolls. You can also use dried, and ground leaves in rice, soups, and omelets.
You may also soak dried leaves to prepare tea, which is good for you because it has properties that can reinforce your cells. For you to take advantage of the herb in a wide range of dishes, you can dry them first using the following methods:
The first method that you can use is hanging the shiso dry. All you have to do is tie the branches and put them inside a paper pack. You should then drape it from a surface while being in a dull and dry room. This method may take up to two weeks before they can completely dry it, so ensure that you are willing to wait.
Dry in the broiler
You can also use your broiler for drying. What you should do would be to preheat your broiler at below 180 degrees F first. Arrange the shiso leaves on a plate while preheating.
After preheating, you can put the plate inside and let it stay there for two to four hours. Try to make the opening of the broiler a bit unlatched to ensure that this will just result in the drying out of the leaves instead of cooking them.
Use your food dehydrator
Of course, you will also find your food helpful dehydrator when trying to dry shiso. Preheat this device first at around 125 to 130 degrees F. As it still preheats, put the leaves on the dehydrator’s rack.
You can then put the rack inside after preheating. Let them stay inside the dehydrator until you notice them looking weak and completely dried out. Note that this method takes a few hours since the drying will be done at a very low temperature.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is shiso easy to grow?
Yes. Shiso is one of those plants you can grow at home in containers or pots. Caring for it is also easy. Ensure that when growing shiso indoors during the winter, it still receives adequate sunlight.
Why is shiso called the beefsteak plant?
The main reason is that it has dark varieties that resemble the redness of steak. Some also call the plant summer coleus as it came to America originally as an ornamental plant.
Can shiso be grown in pots?
Yes, you can grow shiso in a pot. It is an excellent choice for container gardening. Ensure that you pick a pot or container around 6 inches wide and deep at the very least.
Is shiso a perennial?
Shiso is one of those plants you can grow as a perennial plant in USDA hardiness zones 10 to 11. Generally, though, this plant can survive as an annual in any other place.
How long does it take to grow shiso?
It would take around 7 to 21 days for the shiso seeds to germinate, so you have to be patient. You can then wait for this plant to bloom its leaves and flowers, which will signify when they will be ready for harvest.
In most cases, it would take 70 days for the plant to mature and become ideal for harvest.
Growing shiso in your garden is a great decision. It is easy to grow and care for, and it is so versatile that you will never run out of possible uses. Easy access to this herb can make cooking and food preparations more fun, especially if you are fond of Japanese foods.