Cultivation of Perilla / Shiso
Site: These plants should be grown, 6 to 12 inches apart, in well-drained, moist soil and have exposure to sun half the day or more. In warm, humid weather, these plants grow quickly and should have their tops pinched off to maintain a neat appearance. Perilla grows in any light from shade to full sun.
Propagation: Shiso can be started from seed in well-drained soil. Be sure to keep seedlings fairly dry until the plants reach two inches in height. Surface-sow or only lightly cover the seed in mid spring in a greenhouse. The seed germinates best at 68°F, though it also succeeds at slightly lower temperatures. Germination is usually quick, prick out the seedlings into trays or individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer. Give the plants some protection such as a cloche until they are growing away well. The seed has a short viability and should be used when less than a year old.
Growing: After the first year, they easily self-seed.
Harvesting: Pinch them back as they grow to make the plant bushy.
Culinary Uses: Used as a sweet-spicy flavoring for oriental dishes such as stirfries, with raw fish and sliced cucumber, in vegetable dishes, rice and soups. Red perilla is used as a red or pink food colouring, for pickling fruit and vegetables, especially preserved ginger and pickled sour plums, and as a dried powder to be used as a side dish with rice, as an ingredient in cake mixes and as a flavouring in beverages, as a condiment with sushimi. The sprouts can be used as a garnish.
Green perilla or oba, is used as a vegetable, for wrapping rice cake, in salads and tempura, and go well with sweet potato. The seeds of perilla are used to make oil, and to flavour foods, especially pickles. Seeds (called egoma) can be used on baked goods, like sesame seeds. The flowerheads are used as a condiment. The oil from the seeds resembles Linseed oil, and is used as a food flavouring in confectionery and sauces.