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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hapa Farm Girl: Shiso

For this Hapa Farm Girl edition, I am going to introduce you to some herbs that I've started from seed, called shiso.

In Japanese cooking, there are two types of Shiso. First is the green variety, that you are probably most familiar garnishing a sashimi plate. The leaves (ohba) is used all sorts of ways, whole and salted to wrap around onigiri, chopped or shredded to top dishes, or as a garnish to platters like the aforementioned sashimi. The flower buds (hojiso) are usually salted or pickled, or added to soy sauce as as fragrant dipping sauce. while even the sprouts (mejiso) are used on dishes. My mom eats them like a rabbit, but especially loves the variety used to roll up in her favorite Vietnamese dish. 
wikipedia's picture of Shiso ohba

Shiso is a herb of the perilla family, related to the mint. It used to be called the "beefsteak plant" in the English speaking world, but thank goodness the Japanese name is winning that war, because I think of large beefsteak tomatoes with that name, not the herb. It is broad and leafy, with a wonderful aroma and tang, kind of like a cross between basil and mint.

There is also a red version of shiso, which gives umeboshi its characteristic red color. The buds are also eaten, but the red is mostly used for pickling.
I was ecstatic when this little dude popped up

I planted the green variety, but I plan on planting the red variety as well. Heck, the purple and green Vietnamese cultivar looks enticing as well. All perilla is infamous for it's slow and sporadic germination, like most herbs, so I have seedlings in all different stages of development--two 4" plants were given away to my mother yesterday, and I have some that just sprouted last week! All of these seeds were originally planted the middle of April.  I had hoped to have them ready for Mother's Day gift giving, but that obviously didn't pan out thanks to the nature of the seed.

Shiso is part of the mint family, and behaves a lot like basil.  It likes sun, but also does well in partial shade. Frying a couple of seedlings in the sun, I can tell you that you want to be careful about drying out the delicate sprouts before they are big enough to withstand full Southern California sun. Just like basil, it is suggested to pinch the flowers off to keep the plant going.

Once I get a planter for my patio, I will hopefully keep a couple of seedlings around to cook with.  See below for some delish dishes featuring shiso:
Tsukemono and Furikake Donburi 
Strawberry Shiso Citrus Water

My seed packet from Marukai, as well as my seed cells

See Also:
Hapa Farm Girl: Eggs!
Hapa Farm Girl: Rhubarb Strawberry Pie Filling


  1. Hey, thanks for this post - I've been seeing shiso plants for sale in my neighbourhood and thinking about getting them.

  2. I am going to try growing some, thank you for sharing you thoughts.