Japanese restaurants commonly they serve up sashimi garnished with big beautiful green leaves that most customers leave untouched, thinking it is only for decorative purposes.
Yes, these green leaves are Shiso leaves. Shiso, also known as Perilla frutescens var. crispa.
So what's in its name? The name Shiso originated from the Chinese word Zisu which means purple. It is a close cousin of the mint plant and has popular use in countries like Japan, Korea, China and India.
Shiso occurs in both red and green forms but the ones that we see most popularly used today is the green form.
Taste: Spicy, sweet with a hint of cinnamon.
It also contains strong flavors of spearmint, basil, anise and cinnamon. When julienned into strips, the flavour is really brought out. Its seeds are commonly used as an edible oil.
Most Popular Use: Fish, meat, vegetables
- Great source of iron, calcium, potassium, Vitamin A, B2 and C
- Contains a generous amount of alpha-linoleic acid, a plant form of Omega-3 fatty acids, as well as linoleic acid (Omega-6) and oleic acid (Omega-9), all of which are unsaturated fatty acids
- High carotene content
- High in anti-oxidants
- Used in Asian countries as a natural cure to allergies, cough and flu
- Rich in rosmarinic antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
- Eating Shiso leaves on a regular basis is said to help reduce the severity of allergic reactions due to the ability of rosmarinic acid to inhibit the production of Interleukin-4, a protein that causes some immune cells to consider common allergens as pathogens and overreact
- Believed to help prevent anemia and contain cancer-fighting properties.
- Some Japanese use it alongside ginger, rice vinegar, or umeboshi to help blood circulation.
- Improves skin complexion
How you can incorporate it into your daily diet:
- Brewed as iced tea (adding hot water over a cup of Shiso leaves)
- Add to soups, pastas, salads and even desserts!
- To use in Japanese dishes such as sushi, cold noodles, tofu and tataki
- Pickle it! (Red variety is more suitable for pickling)
- Cocktails like a Ice Green Tea Mojito or this Shiso Cool Cocktail!
- Used as a garnish
Shiso can be found in select supermarkets, sold by the leaves and are generally quite pricey. But if you grow your own, you will have an abundant supply and knowing that you are using something you've grown is infinitely satisfying and priceless.
Time to grow your own today!