The Ultimate Guide to Shiso: Cultivation, Culinary Uses, and Health Benefits

Shiso, also known as Perilla frutescens, is a herb commonly used in Asian cuisine, particularly in Japan, Korea, and China. With its distinct flavor and numerous health benefits, shiso has been gaining popularity worldwide. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore everything you need to know about shiso, including its history, varieties, cultivation methods, culinary uses, and health benefits. By the end of this article, you’ll have a thorough understanding of this versatile herb and how to incorporate it into your garden and kitchen.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction to Shiso
  2. History and Cultural Significance
  3. Varieties of Shiso
  4. Cultivation and Growing Conditions
  5. Harvesting and Storage
  6. Culinary Uses of Shiso
  7. Health Benefits of Shiso
  8. Shiso in Traditional Medicine
  9. Shiso Recipes
  10. Conclusion

1. Introduction to Shiso

Shiso, also known as perilla, is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae). It is an annual herb that grows up to 60-90 cm tall and has broad, serrated leaves. The plant is known for its aromatic qualities and comes in several varieties, each with its unique flavor profile and culinary uses. Shiso is commonly used in Japanese cuisine, where it is referred to as “aojiso” (green shiso) and “akashiso” (red shiso).

2. History and Cultural Significance

Shiso has been cultivated for centuries in East Asia. Its origins can be traced back to China, where it was initially used for its medicinal properties. Over time, shiso spread to Japan and Korea, becoming an integral part of their culinary traditions. In Japan, shiso is often used as a garnish for sushi and sashimi, while in Korea, it is used to wrap meat and rice dishes. The herb’s cultural significance extends beyond the kitchen, as it is also used in traditional medicine and religious rituals.

3. Varieties of Shiso

There are several varieties of shiso, each with distinct characteristics. The two main types are:

A. Green Shiso (Aojiso)

Green shiso has vibrant green leaves and a refreshing, slightly peppery flavor. It is commonly used in salads, as a garnish for sushi, and in tempura dishes.

B. Red Shiso (Akashiso)

Red shiso has deep purple-red leaves and a more robust, slightly astringent flavor. It is often used in pickling (such as umeboshi plums), in making shiso juice, and as a natural food dye.

Other varieties include:

C. Britton Shiso

Britton shiso, also known as Perilla frutescens var. crispa, has frilly leaves and a mild flavor. It is often used as an ornamental plant due to its attractive foliage.

D. Korean Shiso (Perilla Leaf)

Korean shiso, known as “kkaennip,” has a stronger flavor and is commonly used to wrap grilled meats, in kimchi, and as a seasoning in various dishes.

4. Cultivation and Growing Conditions

Shiso is a relatively easy herb to grow, making it a popular choice for home gardeners. Here are some tips for cultivating shiso:

A. Soil and Sunlight

Shiso thrives in well-drained soil rich in organic matter. It prefers full sun but can tolerate partial shade. The ideal soil pH for shiso is between 6.0 and 7.5.

B. Planting

Shiso can be grown from seeds or transplants. If starting from seeds, sow them indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost date. Transplant the seedlings outdoors once the danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed. Space the plants 12-18 inches apart.

C. Watering

Shiso requires consistent moisture, especially during dry periods. Water the plants regularly, ensuring the soil remains evenly moist but not waterlogged.

D. Maintenance

Shiso is relatively low-maintenance but benefits from regular pruning to encourage bushier growth. Remove any flower buds to prolong the plant’s lifespan and prevent it from going to seed too early.

5. Harvesting and Storage

Shiso leaves can be harvested as needed throughout the growing season. For the best flavor, pick the leaves in the morning after the dew has dried. Younger leaves are more tender and flavorful than older ones.

To store shiso, wrap the leaves in a damp paper towel and place them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. They will keep for up to a week. Alternatively, shiso leaves can be dried or frozen for long-term storage.

6. Culinary Uses of Shiso

Shiso’s unique flavor makes it a versatile ingredient in the kitchen. Here are some common culinary uses:

A. Garnishes and Condiments

Shiso leaves are often used as a garnish for sushi, sashimi, and tempura. They can also be finely chopped and mixed into sauces, dressings, and marinades.

B. Salads and Wraps

Shiso leaves add a fresh, aromatic note to salads and can be used to wrap rice, meat, or vegetables. In Korea, shiso leaves are commonly used to wrap grilled meats.

C. Pickling

Red shiso is frequently used in pickling, particularly in making umeboshi (pickled plums). The leaves impart a vibrant color and tangy flavor to the pickles.

D. Beverages

Shiso leaves can be used to make refreshing beverages, such as shiso juice or tea. Simply steep the leaves in hot water or blend them with other ingredients to create a unique drink.

E. Cooking

Shiso leaves can be added to soups, stir-fries, and rice dishes. They pair well with a variety of ingredients, including fish, tofu, and vegetables.

7. Health Benefits of Shiso

Shiso is not only a culinary delight but also a powerhouse of health benefits. Here are some of the notable benefits:

A. Rich in Nutrients

Shiso leaves are packed with essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, and K, as well as calcium, iron, and potassium. These nutrients contribute to overall health and well-being.

B. Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Shiso contains compounds like rosmarinic acid and omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory effects. These compounds can help reduce inflammation and may be beneficial for conditions like arthritis and asthma.

C. Antioxidant Effects

Shiso is rich in antioxidants, which help protect the body against oxidative stress and damage caused by free radicals. This can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases and support overall health.

D. Allergy Relief

Shiso has been shown to have anti-allergic properties, making it useful for managing symptoms of allergies and asthma. It can help reduce the release of histamines, which are responsible for allergic reactions.

E. Digestive Health

Shiso leaves have been traditionally used to aid digestion and alleviate gastrointestinal issues. They can help stimulate appetite, relieve nausea, and reduce bloating.

8. Shiso in Traditional Medicine

Shiso has a long history of use in traditional medicine, particularly in Chinese and Japanese herbal practices. It is often used to treat a variety of ailments, including:

A. Respiratory Issues

Shiso is believed to have expectorant properties, making it useful for treating coughs, colds, and other respiratory conditions.

B. Skin Conditions

Shiso oil is sometimes used topically to treat skin conditions such as eczema, dermatitis, and insect bites due to its anti-inflammatory and soothing effects.

C. Detoxification

Shiso is thought to have detoxifying properties and is sometimes used to cleanse the body and promote liver health.

9. Shiso Recipes

To help you get started with incorporating shiso into your cooking, here are a few simple and delicious recipes:

A. Shiso Pesto


  • 1 cup fresh shiso leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Combine shiso leaves, basil leaves, pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor.
  2. Pulse until the mixture is finely chopped.
  3. Add Parmesan cheese and olive oil, and blend until smooth.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve with pasta, bread, or as a dip.

B. Shiso Tempura


  • 12 shiso leaves
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup ice-cold water
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Oil for frying
  • Salt to taste


  1. In a bowl, whisk together flour, ice-cold water, and egg yolk to make the tempura batter.
  2. Heat oil in a deep fryer or large pot to 350°F (175°C).
  3. Dip each shiso leaf into the batter, allowing any excess to drip off.
  4. Fry the leaves in the hot oil until crispy and golden brown, about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels.
  6. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.

C. Pickled Shiso Leaves


  • 20 red shiso leaves
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  1. Wash and dry the shiso leaves.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine rice vinegar, sugar, water, and salt. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat.
  3. Place the shiso leaves in a clean jar.
  4. Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the shiso leaves, ensuring they are fully submerged.
  5. Allow the mixture to cool, then seal the jar and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving.

10. Conclusion

Shiso is a versatile and nutritious herb that can add a unique flavor and numerous health benefits to your diet. Whether you grow it in your garden or purchase it from a local market, shiso is an excellent addition to a variety of dishes. From its rich history and cultural significance to its diverse culinary uses and health-promoting properties, shiso is a herb worth exploring and incorporating into your daily life.

By understanding how to cultivate, harvest, and use shiso, you can enjoy the many benefits this remarkable herb has to offer. So, why not give shiso a try and discover the delightful flavors and health benefits it brings to your table?

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