Shiso is the best herb to grow for bento making

I don’t know where the days are going. It’s already February 15th, and time to decide which vegetable and herb seeds to get for spring. (For me, flowers come in a distinct second after edible gardening.) This weekend I’m going to try to be a bit more organized than most years and sort through the seeds I’ve kept from last year, and figure out what I need to order.

If you are a gardener, even if your garden is limited to some pots on a sunny windowsill, if there’s one herb you should try to grow it’s shiso. Shiso, or perilla to give its botanical name, is a very refreshing herb that can be used in all manner of ways. For bentos though one interesting aspect of shiso is that it has some antibacterial qualities. That’s one reason why you see green shiso leaves being used as a garnish with sashimi. You can use the fully grown leaves as edible dividers, to wrap rice or meat or other things, and a lot more. See this bento from last summer where I used salted shiso leaves as onigiri wrappers. I love shiso-wrapped onigiri, they taste so fresh! I think that shiso is used quite a lot in the winning Hello Kitty bento too (for the head wrapper and the paws).

This article on Just Hungry describes shiso and some other Japanese vegetables and herbs to consider growing, as well as seed sources. In terms of the growing conditions shiso needs, I’ve found that it grows quite well in our cool climate here, and thrives in most of Japan, so it should do well in many conditions. If it likes your garden it will start self-seeding itself. Even a single plant in a pot will provide you with leaves for you to garnish your bento with in the summer months. Since shiso can be pretty expensive to buy in the shops, even if you can get a hold of it, it’s well worth growing.

For more bento recipes, ideas and tips, subscribe to Just Bento via your newsreader or by email (more about subscriptions).

And visit our sister site, Just Hungry for great Japanese home recipes and more.

Filed under:

14 comments

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

hmmm...

why didn’t i think of growing shiso? i can’t seem to find them fresh nor dried around me. some times you just have to take matters into your own hands and in this case, i’ll just have to grow them myself! lol~ and that reminds me, i also can’t seem to find dried yuzu peels, but i found a miniature dwarf yuzu tree that i can plant in container! wonder how many years it’ll take to grow a fruit, ne? =D keep up the great work!

that’s why I started

that’s why I started growing shiso - I can’t buy them fresh here (though last summer I found shiso plants at the morning market!) Shiso is a lot easier, and faster, to grow than yuzu :)

Yes!

Hi Maki, I totally agree. I love shiso everything…furikake, tempura, in sushi, with sashimi, etc.

Where do you buy your shiso

Where do you buy your shiso seeds from? Any place on line?

taste?

What does shiso taste like?

ordering seeds

I found red and green shiso seeds for ordering here: http://www.kitazawaseed.com/seeds_perilla.html

sources for shiso

My favorite online source for all kinds of East Asian vegetable seeds is Evergreen Seeds in Anaheim CA, which I also recommend in the Japanese vegetables and herbs article mentioned above. But a lot of general seed sellers sell shiso as Perilla - look in the ornamental plants section if you don’t see it in the herb section.

Shiso has a unique taste…a little minty but not strongly so. I would describe it as a very ‘fresh’ taste, and smell too. The red kind has a stronger taste and bitterness, and is a bit harder to grow (at least in our climate here). The green kind is more versatile for cooking, but the red kind is used for things like making shiso juice and for making umeboshi.

I just got the Japanese herb

I just got the Japanese herb seed kit for my aerogarden. The kit contains Mitsuba (2), Red Shiso, Green Shiso, Nira Chives, Cress and Shungiku (chrysanthemum). I have been looking for good recipes!

Juliet, that sounds like a

Juliet, that sounds like a nice combination! In a nutshell, you can use mitsuba as a garnish on various thing (very nice to float a few leaves on miso soup). Green shiso is also a great garnish (shredded and used for cold soba noodles, in salads etc), wrapped around onigiri, wrapped around meat or veg. and panfried or grilled, and makes a great tempura too. Very young red shiso can be used as a garnish too, older leaves tend to get pickled or salted and so on. Nira is great in stir-fries, adds a mild garlic flavor. Also great finely chopped in dumplings. Very young shungiku leaves can be used raw in salads, older leaves are good in stir-fries and are usually used as a vegetable in sukiyaki. Hope that gives you some ideas!

Growing shiso from seed - tips and tricks

Well, my shiso seedlings are coming along nicely, and I hope to transplant them in a few weeks. With luck, I should have fresh shiso on hand for cooking in around a month.

However, during my research, I came to understand that shiso seeds can be very hard to germinate. This is because, to protect itself from frost, shiso goes into dormancy in winter, and only under specific conditions, indicative of the spring/summer, do the seeds germinate.

A useful resource I found was this book on Google books, which provides details on commercial shiso cultivation, which can be applied at home.

It seems the core tricks to get shiso going are:

  1. Freezing the seed before planting. (To simulate being in the ground in frost.)
  2. Providing the seeds with daily light periods (Usually with seeds, it is recommended to keep them in the dark until they germinate, but I’ve seen suggestion that shiso, among a few types of herbs, requires light or it will not germinate.)
  3. Gibberellin may help, although I found that it was not necessary in my case. (The giberellin treated seedlings germinated and grew faster, but they are longer and thinner, and probably won’t be as healthy as the untreated.)

Very useful tips indeed -

Very useful tips indeed - thanks Kieran!

growing shiso indoors

my mother grows shiso outside in her garden and has offered me some. apartment life offers me no yard, and both entrances are covered with awnings and get little light. i do grow a ton of plants indoors under lights - could i grow shiso indoors? i haven’t found a lot of information online about it. thanks!

If you can grow basil

If you can grow basil indoors under lights, you can probably grow shiso too. You may not get it to flower but that’s not a big deal in this case.

Shiso, thank you for the great info

Hi there, this is great info. I did not realise there is already so much info in your blog on how to grow shiso leaves and where to buy shiso seeds? It’s almost Sept so I guess I need to wait and plant them next year though. Greetings from Basel!

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.