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A Japanese leaf garden (pt 1).

Updated: Sep 26, 2021

I have a love/hate relationship with Japanese shiso (which you might know as green perilla) - you know, those large sweet mint leaves with serrated edges you get when you eat sushi and sashimi at a restaurant.) don't get me wrong - I love eating the leaves - not just with sushi but also in salad, or mixed with miso (a dish which is called shiso miso) on rice but I hate buying shiso leaves - they are sooo expensive!

Shiso green perilla oba beefsteak leaf wild sesame leaf kkaennip by kurumicooks tasty easy healthy Japanese Asian and Fusion cooking and food for your kitchen

So, the ideal solution is to grow them myself which I now do every year. Shiso is actually very easy to grow. All it takes is a packet of seeds, some potting compost and a little tender loving care. Once the seeds have germinated and you have some little plantlets, they grow quite vigorously all through summer and well into autumn as long as you keep them watered every day or two.

Shiso can also be brought indoors as long as it gets plenty of light - in fact, (and I agree with this) many Japanese people only grow shiso indoors because you get softer, sweeter leaves.


How to grow sesame leaf shiso oba green perilla kkaennip beefsteak leaf sesame leaf by kurumicooks tasty easy healthy Japanese Asian and Fusion cooking and food for your kitchen
Shiso seeds germinate after 7 - 10 days.

First things first - buy your seeds from a reputable specialist. Why do I point this out? Well, all you are getting is a packet of tiny seeds, so you need to know you are actually getting shiso seeds and not something completely different! I have heard of people buying seeds from

the internet which turned out to be weeds not shiso! This year, I planted my first seeds in late March in a seed tray in fresh potting compost (just tap them into the surface and sprinkle a little more compost on top) and kept them inside. I kept them damp and covered with a sheet of newspaper while they germinated. They took a little longer than usual, about 10 days, because of the cold weather but they all arrived in the end. Once they reached about 3cm tall, I thinned them out a little (see image left). Shiso is quite hardy - it grows just about everywhere in Japan - just beware of slugs and snails because they like the young leaves as much as I do!

Shiso oba green perilla beefsteak leaf sesame leaf kkaennip plant by kurumicooks tasty easy healthy Japanese Asian and Fusion cooking and food for your kitchen
Shiso plants at 2 months.

I waited until the seedlings were about 10cm high before planting some in a raised bed outside and some more in deep rose pots which I kept inside. I am happy to say that despite the on/off weather we've been having, my shiso has grown in leaps and bounds. I started harvesting the leaves just this weekend and with any luck, the plants should continue to provide me with a supply throughout the summer.

So now I've got lots of delicious shiso leaves, what am i going to do with them? One of the most common ways of using shiso in Japan is as a salad dressing. It's easy to do - here's a recipe you might like to try:

Shiso salad dressing ingredients

8-10 fresh large shiso leaves

Shiso oba kkaennip green perill beefsteak leaf salad dressing by kurumicooks tasty easy healthy Japanese Asian and Fusion cooking and food for your kitchen

2 tbsps veg oil

2 tbsps soy sauce

2 tbsps rice vinegar

2 tsps sugar

1 tsp mirin

Just chop up the leaves finely, then whizz everything together for 30 secs in a blender. Add a pinch of salt & pepper and it's ready to use!


Shiso kkaennip sesame beefsteak leaf garnish for tofu by kurumicooks tasty easy healthy Japanese Asian and Fusion cooking and food for your kitchen

There are lots of other ways you can use shiso. A simple way is to chop it finely and use it as a garnish for tofu (left). Here I combined it with some sesame seeds - just add a little soy sauce - add a bowl of fresh white rice and maybe a salad and you've got a healthy, low calorie lunch in not much more than 10 minutes!

I'll be posting some more recipes for using shiso as I harvest it from the garden. If you are interested in how to grow shiso, you can watch my youtube tutorialby clicking Grow your own Shiso or just scroll down to the bottom of the page. There's also a written "how to" below. Give it a try, once you've gotten the shiso habit, you won't know how you ever lived without it!


Grow your own shiso

what you’ll need:

1 packet shiso seeds (these may be called green perilla where you live)

1 seed tray filled with potting compost

extra potting compost


1 sheet newspaper


how to:

put 3 - 4 seeds in each plug of the tray

sprinkle a little more compost over the seeds so that they are covered

mist well with water

cover with the newspaper

place indoors or under cover

mist the newspaper daily until the seeds germinate then remove the newspaper

once the seedlings are 3-4 cm high, repot into larger pots, mist well and keep inside or under cover

keep the earth moist and with 3-4 weeks, the plants should be about 10cm tall and developing a leaf system

plant outside in beds or large pots and keep well watered

(you can keep shiso inside and it will still grow well as long as it receives enough light)

harvest the leaves when they are about 5-7 cms wide. (shiso is a "cut and come again" plant, so regular harvesting of the leaves will encourage new growth.)


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