Shiso, also known as beefsteak plant, perilla, Japanese basil, and purple mint, is an annual herb that is a member of the mint family. Shiso is native to Asia and has been cultivated in China, India, Japan, Korea, Thailand, and other Asian countries but is more often classified as a weed in North America.
Shiso leaves can either be red or green. The fragrance and taste of the red leaves is somewhat like anise with a bit of astringency to it. The green leaves have more of a cinnamon taste. Some people find the taste "medicinal." The leaves, which are rich in calcium and iron, are used for seasoning, coloring, pickling and garnishing.
In Japanese cuisine, shiso is a common ingredient. It is often battered and served as tempura, used in pickles such as Umeboshi, wrapped around sushi or used as a receptacle to hold wasabi. Dried leaves can be powdered and used as a garnish. In other Asian cuisines, such as Vietnamese and Korean, the leaves are generally used as garnish.
To select shiso leaves, look for shiny, dry leaves that are firm and crisp. Fresh leaves will release a spicy aroma with a gentle rub of the fingers.
To store the leaves, wrap the unwashed leaves in a moistened paper towel or a sealed plastic bag and keep in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator for no more than four days.
Outside of traditional Asian cuisines, shiso can be substituted for basil, cilantro and mint.
Shiso oil is used similarly to tung or linseed oil and also in paints, lacquers, varnish, inks, linoleum and waterproof coating on cloth.
Red shiso leaves can be used to color pickled plum and ginger.
Non-stop handling (such as people harvesting or handling shiso for a living) can cause dermatitis on some people's hands.
Livestock generally won't eat shiso; it's toxic for them.
Take a piece of sashimi, wrap it around the shiso leaf and eat it - it's quite delicious!
For a quick salad, layer orange segments and sliced radishes with small shiso leaves instead of lettuce greens; it really makes the orange pop in your mouth.
Ground up shiso leaves into a pesto sauce and tossed with some sesame seed oil and soba noodles.
Make a summer salad of blanched leaves and a sweetened sesame seed and chili pepper dressing.
Oil from shiso leaves has recently been found to be an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.
The leaves are rich in calcium and and iron.
Shiso leaves added to condiments not only colors the product but adds an antimicrobial agent to pickled food.
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