Shiso (Parilla frutescens) is one of the most widely used culinary herbs in Japanese cuisine. It is one of my favorite herbs, as its exotic aroma accentuates almost any dish. For those of us who don’t have a Green Thumb, it's not a difficult plant to grow, as long as it gets enough sun light. I have made many attempts to grow it in my NY apartment room in the past, however, there unfortunately wasn't enough sun light for Shiso to thrive. Now that I have access to an open field in the countryside, I have been enjoying fresh Shiso for the entire summer! It's like heaven to be around abundant Shiso. :)
Here in the states, Shiso is called 'Japanese basil.’ Easy enough to imagine... it's such a versatile herb for Japanese people just as basil is so important for Italian cuisine. There are two kinds of Shiso: aka-shiso <red (purple) shiso> and ao-shiso <blue (green) shiso>. In Kampo, red (purple) is the one used as medicine, while blue (green) is mainly used as food. In my opinion, the red is a little rough and firm, and blue ismore tender and more aromatic. Due to those characteristics, blue was eaten up by wild animals quickly in country side, and only red has been available for us humans to eat. I still enjoy it fully. I am hoping to see Shiso in local markets one day soon!
There are many therapeutic benefits of Shiso. They are remarkably high in anti-oxidants, anti-sepsis, and detoxification. These actions have been utilized in Japanese food culture for a long time in history; you may have seen green leaves right by fresh sashimi (or sushi) in Japanese restaurant… These garnishes are kept nearby to prevent the raw fish from spoiling.
Shiso is a purple herb that brings us alive, quite literally! In Japan, Shiso is believed to cleanse the blood. There is an anecdote behind the name, shiso (紫蘇) —One man, who was dying from a severe food poison, was given a Shiso decoction, and soon after, he was recovered.— 紫 means 'purple', and 蘇 means 'revival.’
Interested in a homemade Shiso tincture? Contact me here!
Harvesting: June ~ October: Flowers come out at the end of summer.
Part used: Leaves, Seeds and Flowers
Method: Tea, Tincture (seeds or fresh leaves are preferred)
Action: Anti-microbial, Detoxifying, Intestinal regulator, Stomachic, Diaphoretic, Diuretic, Anti-tussive, Expectorant, and Anti-depressant
Indication: Onset of cold, loss of appetite, food poisoning, (summer) heat lathery, allergy, phlegm, constipation