Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Shiso, aka Japanese Basil

My friend Kyoko recently gave me some shiso plants for the garden. Shiso has an unusual taste like nothing else that I have tasted. The nearest I can get to describing it that to me it has a fresh green summery taste a bit like the smell of new mown grass with a hint of that smell you get when you brush against tomato leaves, with a whisper of lemon.

I have eaten this with salad and deep fried in tempura batter.
For a present, Kyoko made a bottle of clear magenta cordial for me from the red ( purple) shiso and she tells me it is used when pickling plums. The cordial is easy to make. Pick some red shiso leaves and soak overnight in some water with a little citric acid added. Not too much water, just enough to cover the leaves. Green shiso leaves can be mixed in with the red ones. In the morning drain the juice and boil it with some sugar. Don't use an aluminium pan as the acid can eat into the metal. When cool bottle and refrigerate the cordial. Add water and ice to taste.
Pepsi Japan even produced a Pepsi shiso.
It is used in cooking throughout Asia. The green shiso is wrapped around chicken pieces to be stir fried.

The purple shiso can double up as an ornamental plant, I have seen it in planting schemes at the Chelsea Flower Show. If the birds and snails don't eat them they can grow to 2 or 3 feet high.

The botanical name for shiso is Perilla frutescens and it belongs to the mint family along with basil, coleus and nettles. They all have square shaped stems.
It is used in Chinese medicine and is said to boost the immune system.


Erika Price said...

Fascinating, thank you for sharing! I must admit I'd not come across Shiso before, but can't wait to try it myself now! Erika Price Jewelry

ingermaaike said...

Looks beutiful and sounds delicious. But probably not hardy enough to survive here...

Joy said...

I had it to come up in my vegetable garden. I had ordered some odd things to grow so it may have hitchhiked in! I asked our AG man in Mississippi and he said it is perilla, or otherwise, called shiso. Mine grew like a beautiful shrub size, 4 feet. The bees loved the flowers. I grew fond of the plant and let it grow. I may end up with lots next year, I'm told. Not a place in the vegetable garden I want it to prolific though. I didn't know about cooking with it until reading your blog. Interesting info :-) Thanks!

Colours and Textures said...

I hope you enjoy cooking with it Joy. It may be worth saving some seed from it as well.