Growing Shiso

This page talks about growing shiso and its benefits.

Shiso (she-so) is an annual herb also known as “Japanese basil” or “Perilla” although perilla  is actually more of a category that includes other plants.  It was once called, “beefsteak plant,” but that name is rarely used anymore.  Shiso is used in Asian cooking.  There are two main types of shiso: red and green.  Green shiso is used more for salads, and red shiso as a coloring agent or garnish.  It’s leaves are either green or purple and slightly prickly, with jagged edges.  The flowers are white or purple and bloom between July and October.  Shiso grows to a height of 18 to 30 inches.

Shiso seeds do not keep well, so be sure to use fresh seeds to ensure germination.  Store additional seeds in a cool, dry place.  Shiso grows best in the sun, so select an area that gets plenty of sunlight.  Mix soil with compost and a little builder’s sand.  You can begin planting after the last frost.   Shiso will germinate best when temperatures reach around 70 degrees.

Plant seeds very shallowly in the soil, either barely covered or only 1/8 inch in the soil.  They need light to germinate.  Keep the soil moist, but not overly wet.  Plant 1 to 2 seeds per inch, then, once they’re growing, thin out to 6 to 12 inches between plants.  The seeds should germinate within 7 to 21 days of planting.

Shiso matures in 80-85 days, but you can begin harvesting as soon as the plant becomes established.  To harvest, simply remove leaves as needed.  Like many other herbs and greens, alternatively, you can harvest the entire plant.  If you decide to use shiso in your mixed green salads, begin planting a few plants every week or two for fresh leaves throughout the growing season.

If you live in an area that is hot and humid, prune young shiso plants to encourage bushier growth.  If you allow the plant to bloom, it will readily self-seed.  As it is an annual plant, shiso will die off as the weather cools.  Shiso can easily be grown in outdoor containers or in kitchen windows, provided there is plenty of sunlight.

More on Growing Shiso

Shiso can be used in a variety of Asian cooking inspired recipes like sushi, as well as mixed in with a mixed green or citrus salad, added to green tea, used as a leaf wrap, mixed in with fruit, scrambled eggs or stir fried vegetables.  

The next time you make a tuna sandwich, try wrapping it in a sisho leaf instead of bread for great flavor and as a healthy alternative.  In addition to leaves, many people enjoy the seeds, sprouts and flowers as well.  Its use is really limited by your imagination.

Shiso Pesto:

4 cups shiso leaves, packed

½ cup raw pistachios

2 tablespoons miso paste

1 clove garlic

½ cup olive oil

¼ cup rice bran

juice from one lemon

Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend.  Add rice bran a little at a time and blend until smooth.  Serve with pasta and shrimp.  Excess pesto can be portioned into individual servings and frozen.

Click here to visit our selection on shiso seeds.

Go to Herbs from Growing Shiso

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