Simple Recipes: Shiso/perilla Flowers and Leaves

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I felt compelled to answer a question from Rowena and provide some useful information on “shiso” or perilla/beefsteak plant in a simple posting that I hope will help Japanese food lovers and vegetarians!

First of all, one can grow shiso, be it green or violet, almost anywhere as long as you have plenty of sunshine and water opportune times (as long as you water it yourself, fine!).
For example, Rowena presently lives in Italy and has successfully grown some from seeds I sent her.

Seeds should be planted in March/ April. The hotter the prevailing climate, the earlier it should be done. Prepare some moist vegetables-growing soil and make small shallow holes on top at a comfortable distance from each other. drop 2 or 3 seeds in each hole. Cover with more soil and spread a newspar sheet over the lot. Keep in shade. Once the first shoots have come out, take newspaper out and expose to sun all day long. Water morning and evening at the base of the stems, not on the leaves (or they wuld “burn”!).

By August (or earlier) to September the shiso will start flowering!
These flowers, if picked early enough are edible!

(Pic taken at Tomii)
Reputable Sushi and Japanese restaurants extensively use them all year round. They make for exquisite decoration and are really tasty!

Now, if you want your own seeds, wait until the folwers and stems turn brown and shake them over a plate. You should get plenty of minuscule seeds for the following year. I checked this very morning with my neighbour, a retired farmer who is looking after his own garden. He said there is little use to keep them indoors in winter unless you want to start a greeh House business with all the hassles involved! Just collect the seeds and replant! Actually such seeds could become a source of business in Italy and elsewhere!

Now, the leaves can be accomodated in hundred of ways. Pick them up young and tender enough. The Missus keep them in a plastic Tupperware-type box with a sheet of clean kitchen paper imbibed with clean water (put it at the bottom of the box) before storing it in the fridge vegetables compartment.

You can wrap them around nigiri/rice balls instead of nori/seaweed.

(Pic taken at Oddakui)

Make a liberal use of them with sashimi!

They are also great as tenpura!
Do not hrow away the small or damaged leaves. Chop them fine and add them to fresh salads or to any stews and ratatouille!

The violet variety is edible of course, although the Japanese do not use for decoration like the gree one, except for the flowers.
They usually pickle them for their sake or add them to other pickled vegetables such as cucumber.
They also make juice, sherbet or sauces with them, too.

15 thoughts on “Simple Recipes: Shiso/perilla Flowers and Leaves”

  1. thankyou

    that is a good subject
    and fine images

    I lhke pants and flowers very much but i dont know mutch about them
    in english, please add fine flowers

    with my best wishes


  2. Hi! The pix look fantastic – I want some, and maybe I’ve had some before, but I can’t say for sure.
    BTW – I took a dear friend of mine out Saturday night for his first Japanese meal. I’m sure it wasn’t strictly authentic, but he at least encountered his first Bento Box (and loved it) while I had my comfort food (Nabyaki Udon). I thought of you and would have taken pictures, but alas, no camera on me at the time!
    love your posts..Sue


  3. I Love shiso leaves. I will send you some red amaranth seeds in exchanges for some of these shiso seeds. I would so like to try growing it. It will look nice with the epazote. With these challenging financial times we are living in it gives me much more pleasure than before to grow my garden of weird weedy looking things that no one understands. Please email me to swap snail mail and thank you for friending me on food buzz.


  4. Hi Robert-Gilles, I’ve seen the leaves in sushi restaurants before, but never thought much of them. Now that I know they are edible, I’ll give one a nibble the next time I step into a sushi place that serves them with my sashimi.


  5. I too love the shiso leaves.
    We planted a small shiso plant in the riverbank opposite our house and now we have so many plants that they are out of control.
    Next time you come round Robert, please pick as many leaves as you can carry!


  6. And flowers really are tasty!

    Robert-Gilles, thank you so much for posting this. Also for the final image of the purple shiso because next year I think I’ll transplant them into the ground. I kept them in pots this year, not wanting the dachshund to tear them to shreds, but I have a feeling that they will love the soil that I have here. Now I’m off to foodbuzz you!


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