21 August 2012

Perilla frutescens var crispa is a purple annual herb for flower beds


Perilla frutescens var crispa is one of the prettiest members of the mint family, and, like most of its relatives, it can be used as an edible in addition to adding practical beauty in a flower, herb or vegetable bed.

Perilla's many names include: Red Shiso, sesame leaves, beefsteak leaf, purple mint, gee so, zi su, aka jiso, aka shiso, oba, dulketip, kkaennip namul, tulkkae, rau tia to and Shiso Purple Cress.

My seeds came from Kitazawa Seed Company.

If you eat in Japanese restaurants you may have seen the little pink flowers, ear shiso, as a garnish on your plate. The flowers are also used as a condiment, preserved as a spice and added to a traditional dip.

When you see umeshiso on the menu, whether pickled, in a paste or as juice, they used Red Perilla. Shiso vinegar is simply Shiso leaves steeped in rice wine vinegar.

When the flowers begin to form seed pods, they are used as a garnish, added to dipping sauces, and for pickling salted plums. The sprouts are also used as a garnish.

You will find Shiso pesto recipes at http://norecipes.com.

The plants in my photos are grandchildren of the ones I planted originally. I've seen Perilla form a beautiful purple clump in a friends' garden where the ground was never worked in the spring. My plants come up outside the beds because I work the beds every year, disturbing the seeds that scattered themselves the previous fall. When the weather warms in late spring, here come the volunteers from the previous year - all outside the edge of the beds. They willingly tolerate careful transplanting into a nearby bed.

Another Asian seed source, Evergreen Seed, says the seeds have a dormant period and that germination can be difficult. I didn't notice that with the seeds I grew - could have been my lucky year.

2BSeeds online has a great price (100 seeds for $2.25). I've never ordered from them so I can't attest to the germination rate like I can for Kitazawa's seeds.
Red Perilla Shi So - red stems and leaves
My go-to reference for all things germination is the out-of-print Thompson-Morgan reference, available on the Tom Clothier Garden Walk site.

The seeds need light to germinate so leave them uncovered at 70-degrees and keep them slightly moist but not wet. They take a week or two to come up so start them about a month before you can plant them out.

Here's a fascinating tidbit from the Tom Clothier site - 
"As you might expect, the percentage of any seeds to germinate is maximum at the optimal temperature for that species.  As the temperature declines or advances from the optimal temperature, two things happen at the same time. While the percentage of seeds to germinate decreases, the number of days to germination increases.  That is the fundamental relationship between germination and temperature."


Do you grow Shiso.Perilla?

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