Shiso/ Perilla Leaves

I felt compelled to answer again questions from foodie friends like 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 at 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 in the Northen atmosphere, although until June would be fine in Japan and south east Asia. 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 would “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 flowers 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 green 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 tempura!
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 green 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.

The Japan Blog List

Please check the new postings at:
sake, shochu and sushi


19 thoughts on “Shiso/ Perilla Leaves”

  1. I am currently growing both green and purple shiso in Martinique. The sun is strong here and the island is high in humidity. My purple shiso grow fast, the the leaves don’t get big as compare to the green ones.

    Being Vietnamese by origin, I use purple shiso leaves in soup (spicy beef noodle soup), salad (white cabbage salad with chicken and shiso), sauteed (clams sauteed with shiso), also as home remedie to rid of a cold and cough.

    I can share recipes, if anyone is interested. And any new recipes with shiso you know, I would like to learn more.


    1. Cheers, dear Tien!
      You live inmartiniqu!
      That’s a faraway island of my homecounry!
      I’ll be glad to feature any of your recipe as a guest blogger!
      Best regards, Ben amicalement,


      1. Dear Robert-Gilles,

        I appoligise for such a late reply. 2010 and 2011 were crazy years for me, but now I am back, so for sure would love to exchange some recipes with you.

        I have 2 more years to reside in Martinique, and after that, my husband and I might move back to Paris or go to another country. I tried to grow shiso leaves here, and they did grow well, but didn’t last long. I will replant again with better soil.

        Any advice?

        Tien Sarre


    2. Tien, please share your clams sauteed with shiso recipe! I live in New York and the little garden I have is brimming w. shiso. Many thanks!


      1. Hi Suzanne,

        Here is the recipe for Clam Sauteed with Shiso Leaves:


        1/2 kilo small clams in shell, scrubbed
        2 tablespoons oil (preferably extra virgin olive oil)
        6 cloves garlic, minced
        1/4 cup of light soy sauce
        1/4 cup of mirin (Japanese sweet saké seasoning)
        1/2 cup chopped shiso leaves
        1 Tablespoon of butter

        Wash clams to remove any dirt or sand.

        In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic; saute for 1 minute, or until tender.

        Pour in the mirin and soy sauce. Add clams, cover, and steam till clams start to open. Add butter, cover, and cook till most or all of the clams open. Discard any that do not open.

        Throw in 2/3 of shiso leaves. Stir clams and sauce together for 30 seconds. Transfer clams and juice to a bowl. Sprinkle the rest of shiso. Serve.


  2. Another idea for a recipe: Apple and shiso juice! Throw some in a juicer and enjoy. Shiso used to be the number on cash crop here in Japan. I saw a documentary on a little old lady somewhere in a remote rural area who had shiso growing all over her back yard. She would pick small packets of it and auction of on a Japanese version of eBay. Her leaves got famous and she made a fortune on selling the stuff to Tokyo restaurants. These days everone and their pet cat is growing Shiso so the price has dropped dramatically. I saw a bundle of them at the local supermarket the other day going for less than a dollar a packet.


  3. Robert-Gilles, you rock! How cool is it that I got educated in gardening, my second true passion! Hey, I’m also trying my hand at Mitsuba this year. They’re perennial here, and supposedly a native species as well. Got six little plants with roots attached at Mitsuwa and planted them. So far so good! BTW- I’m bringing some of those Violet leaves to my favorite sushi chef, Nobi-san. Last time I went to see him I brought him a bottle of Hangar One Buddha’s Hand Vodka. For some reason I think I get preferential treatment… Next time I’m bringing a bottle of DH Krahn Gin that I infused with Mioga ginger & fresh Yuzu I picked off a friend’s tree in California. To think, I really don’t drink, what a shame.


    1. Dear Kitty!
      I don’t know if I said it before, but you are becoming Japanese!
      Mitsuba is also a great leaf vegetable, isn’t it, and very versatile. I even ate it as sushi!”


  4. Shiso, also love it.
    Put a small plant on the riverbank near our house a few years ago, and now there are hundreds of small plants there.
    Particularly like the red shiso drink, so refreshing in the hot humid summer.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s