Shiso (Perilla frutescens)
Red-leaved shiso, also known by the awkward name “beefsteak plant,” is wonderfully easy to grow and a delight to the eyes and the palate. Like holy basil (tulsi) – its sister – shiso is an adaptogen with high levels of antioxidants. I love shiso in salads, gazpacho, marinated cucumber dishes, and anywhere else a dash of color and an interesting taste is welcome. Right now I am making shiso vinegar, shiso honey, and shiso pesto so I can enjoy it all winter too.
This pungent, aromatic, warming herb is known for its antibacterial, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitussive, tonic, carminative, diaphoretic, emollient, expectorant, and pectoral actions. No wonder its considered so useful when dealing with asthma, colds and chills, nausea (a tea of the stalks is traditional in China as a remedy for morning sickness), abdominal pain, food poisoning, allergic reactions (especially from seafood), bronchitis and even constipation. The juice helps heal cuts and wounds.
The high-protein tasty seeds are antiasthmatic, antitussive, emollient and expectorant. But don’t eat too many, as shiso self-sows readily if sufficient seeds are left on the stalks. As with all mints, there are lots of varieties of shiso available. I prefer the red-leaved shiso because I am into consuming high levels of the antioxidant anthocyanin, found in purple and blue plant parts.