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This page is about the shiso variety of the herb, esp. in Japanese cuisine context. See Perilla for a wider survey that covers "wild sesame" and uses across countries. See Perilla (plant) and Perilla frutescens for in-depth botany and biochemistry. For the city in Japan see Shisō, Hyōgo
Dab of wasabi on a green shiso leaf, possibly at a sushi-bar counter
A green shiso leaf used as receptacle to hold grated wasabi

Shiso (/ˈʃs/,[1] Japanese: 紫蘇 or シソ, [ɕiso̞]) is the more widely used name [2] of the Asian culinary herb Perilla frutescens[3] var. crispa, belonging to the mint family.

This herb was previously known as the "beefsteak plant", a mostly obsolete name.[2] It is also sometimes referred to by its genus name "Perilla", which is ambiguous, as it is also inclusive of the so-called "wild sesame" variety, P. frutescens var. frutescens, which is devoid of the distinctive shiso fragrance.


Shiso is a perennial plant that may be cultivated as an annual in temperate climates, and occurs in both red- (or purple-) leaved and green forms. There are also frilly, ruffled-leaved forms called chirimen-jiso and forms that are red only on top, called katamen-jiso.

The Japanese name shiso (紫蘇?, シソ) is a loan word from Chinese zisu (simplified Chinese: 紫苏; traditional Chinese: 紫蘇; pinyin: zǐsū; Wade–Giles: tsu-su), whose first character 「紫(shi, murasaki)」 means "purple".[4]

Traditionally in Japan shiso denoted the purple-red form.[5] In recent years green is considered typical, and red considered atypical.[citation needed]

Red shiso[edit]

The purple-red type may be known as akajiso (赤ジソ/紅ジソ "red shiso"?). The quintessential use is for coloring the pickled plum, or umeboshi. The shiso leaf turns bright red when it reacts with the umezu, the vinegary brine that wells up from the plums after being pickled in their vats.[4][6] The red pigment is identified as the Perilla anthocyanin, aka shisonin.[7] The mature red leaves are not very amenable to use as a raw salad leaf. But germinated sprouts me-jiso (芽ジソ?) have been used for years as garnish to accent a Japanese dish such as a plate of sashimi.[4][8] Also used are the hanaho (花穂 flower cluster?) or hojiso, which are sprigs or stalks studded with tiny-cupped flowers and forming seeds.[4] The tiny pellets of buds and seed pods can be scraped off using the chopstick or fingers and mixed into the soy sauce dip to add the distinct spicy flavor.[8] The sprouts and flowerheads of the green variety are also used the same way.

Green shiso[edit]

Bunches of green shiso leaves packaged in styrofoam trays are now familiar sights on the supermarket shelves in Japan, as well as in Japanese food markets in the West. But production in earnest as leafy herb did not begin until the 1960s.[9]

One anecdote is that around 1961, a certain cooperative or guild of tsuma (ツマ "garnish"?) commodities based in Shizuoka Prefecture picked large-sized green leaves of shiso and shipped them out to the Osaka market, and gained popularity, so that ōba (大葉 "big leaf"?) became the trade name for bunches of picked green leaves forever after.[10]

A dissenting account places its origin in the city of Toyohashi, Aichi, the foremost ōba-producer in the country,[11] and claims Toyohashi's Greenhouse Horticultural Agricultural Cooperative (豊橋園芸農協?) experimented with planting c. 1955, and around 1962 started merchandizing the leaf part as Ōba, and in 1963 organized "cooperative sorting and sales" of the crop (kyōsen kyōhan (共選・共販?), analogous to cranberry cooperatives in the US). By c. 1970, they achieved year-round production.[12]

Culinary use[edit]

See under Perilla for a survey of the herbal and spice uses of the species in different countries


A whole leaf of green shiso is often used as a receptacle to hold wasabi, or various tsuma (garnishes) and ken (daikon radishes, etc., sliced into fine threads). It seems to have superseded baran,[citation needed] the serrated green plastic film, named after the Aspidistra plant, that graced takeout sushi boxes in bygone days.

Green leaves
A white bowl of spaghetti in red sauce, ganished with minced nori and julienned shiso leaves
Spaghetti topped with a shiso chiffonade

The green leaf can be chopped up and used as herb or condiments for an assortment of cold dishes such as:

Chopped leaves can be used to flavor any number of fillings or batter to be cooked, for use in warm dishes. A whole leaf battered only on the obverse side is made into tempura.[13] Whole leaves are often combined with shrimp or other fried items.

Red leaves

Red leaves are used for making pickled plum (umeboshi) as mentioned, but this is no longer a yearly chore undertaken by the average household. Red shiso is used to color shiba-zuke[ja], a type of pickled eggplant (also cucumber, myoga, shiso seeds may be used),[14] Kyoto specialty.


The seed pods or berries of the shiso are also salted and preserved as a sort of spice.[3] They can be combined with fine slivers of daikon, for instance, to make a simple salad.

One source from the 1960s says that oil expressed from shiso seeds was once used for deep-frying purposes.[4]


The germinated sprouts (cotyledons)[15] used as garnish are known as mejiso (芽ジソ?). Another reference refers to the me-jiso as the moyashi (sprout) of the shiso.[4]

Any time it is mentioned that shiso "buds" are used, there is reason to suspect this is a mistranslation for "sprouts" since the word me (?) can mean either.[16]

Though young buds or shoots are not usually used in restaurants, the me-jiso used could be microgreen size.[17] People engaged in growing their own shiso in planters, will also refer to the plucked seedlings they have thinned as mejiso.[18][better source needed]


The name yukari refers to dried and pulverized red-shiso flakes,[19] and has passed into the common tongue as a generic term,[20] even though Mishima Foods Co.[ja] insists it is the proprietary name for its products.[21] The term yukari-no-iro has signified the color purple since the olden days, based on a poem in the Kokin Wakashū about a murasaki or gromwell blooming in Musashino (old name for Tokyo area).[22] Moreover, the term Murasaki-no-yukari[ja] has long been used as an alias for Lady Murasaki's famous romance of the shining prince.


Other than the yukari variety, there are many commercial brand furikake type sprinkle-seasoning products that contain shiso as well. They can be sprinkled on rice or mixed into musubi. They are often sprinkled on pasta.

The shiso pasta can be made from fresh chopped leaves, sometimes combined with the crumbled roe of tarako,[23] and the trick to success is not to cook the cod roe on the stove top, but to just to toss the hot pasta into it.


Bactericidal and preservative effects of the shiso, due to the presence of terpenes such as perilla alcohol, have been noted.[13]

Further etymology[edit]

The word ōba was originally a trade name and was not entered into the Shin Meikai kokugo jiten until its 5th edition (Kindaichi 1997), and is not found in 4th edition (1989). This dictionary is more progressive the Kojien cited previously, as Kindaichi's dictionary, from the 1st ed. (1972), and definitely in the 2nd ed. (1974) defined shiso as a plant with leaves of "purple(green) color".[24]

Statistical data[edit]

Change in annual shiso production
Growth year Production in Tons

The bar graph shows the trend in total production of shiso in Japan. (Source:Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (Japan) statistics. For green shiso, cumuative figures for shiso as vegetable is used.)[12][25]

Raw data start from year 1960, but for the shiso, the production figure was either negligible (far less than 1000t) or unavailable until the year 1976, as shown.

The 1970s was when refrigerated storage and refrigerated transport came online for shiso;[12] but the same technology was bringing fresh produce and seafood to meal tables of ever-remoter parts away from farms or seaports. So foods like sashimi which was not daily fare for every Japanese was becoming exactly that, and the green shiso leaves, developed as a garnish for sashimi, quickly began to gain ground.

The no. 1 producer of produce type shiso among the 47 todofuken in Japan is Aichi Prefecture, boasting 3,852 tons, representing 37.0% of national production (based on latest available FY2008 data).[26] Another source uses greenhouse-grown production of 3,528 tons as the figure better representation actual ōba production, and according to this, the prefecture has a 56% share.[12][27] The difference in percentage is an indicator that in Aichi, the leaves are 90% greenhouse produced, whereas nationwide, the ratio is just 60:40 in favor of indoors over open fields.[28]

As aforestated, Toyohashi, Aichi is the city which produces the most shiso vegetable in Japan.[11][29] They are followed in ranking by Namegata, Ibaraki.

There seems to be a growth spurt for shiso crops grown for industrial use. The data shows the following trend for crops targeted for oil and perfumery.[30]


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 2008, "shiso". WordReference. Retrieved April 1, 2012. , "shiso n. ... chiefly used as a herb in Japanese cookery"
  2. ^ a b query in the New York Times archives shows that "shiso" since 1981 had had 251 hits, and during 1990s - current, 243 , with 172 definitely in "+Japanese" context. Since 1981, perilla has 52 hits winnowed to only 12 in "+Japanese" context. Since 1981, occurrence of "beefsteak plant" scored 3 hits.
  3. ^ a b Larkcom 2007, Oriental Vegetables
  4. ^ a b c d e f Heibonsha 1969
  5. ^ Shinmura 1976, Kōjien 2nd ed. revised. (1st ed. 1955, the linguist who edited the dictionary died 1967). Definition of shiso translates to: "Annual of mint family. Native to China. Grows to 60cm. Stalk is rectangular, leaves are purple-red and fragrant.. (description of flower and fruit).. Leaves and fruit..used as an edible aromatic, and to color umeboshi. Occurs in green and chirimen (ruffle-leaved) forms."
  6. ^ Shimbo 2001, pp. 142-
  7. ^ Yu, Kosuna & Haga 1997, p.151, "Kondo (1931) and Kuroda and Wada (1935) isolated an anthocyanin pigment from purple Perilla leaves and gave it the name shisonin"
  8. ^ a b Tsuji & Fisher 2007,p.89
  9. ^ Shimbo 2001,p.58
  10. ^ 川上行蔵; 西村元三朗 (1990). 日本料理由来事典. . 朋舎出版. ISBN 978-4-8104-9116-6. ISBN 4-8104-9116-1. , quoted by "ことばの話1249「大葉と紫蘇」". 道浦俊彦の平成ことば事情(Toshihiko Michiura's Heisei kotoba jijo. 2003-06-26. Retrieved April 2012.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help): "..一九六一(昭和三十六)年ごろ、静岡県の、あるツマ物生産組合が、青大葉ジソの葉を摘んでオオバの名で大阪の市場に出荷.."
  11. ^ a b "JA豊橋ブランド(JA Toyohashi brand)". 2012. Retrieved April 2012.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help), under heading "Tsumamono nippon-ichi"(つまもの生産日本一) states Toyhashi is Japan's no. 1 producer of both edible chrysanthemums and shiso
  12. ^ a b c d Okashin 2012 website pdf, p.174
  13. ^ a b Mouritsen 2009, pp. 110–112, Sushi book written by a Danish biophysicist
  14. ^ Ogawa, Toshio(小川敏男 (1978). つけもの(tsukemono) (preview). Hoiku-sha (保育社). p. 115. ISBN 978-4-586-50423-7. ISBN 4-586-50423-4. gives an illustrated guide to making shibazuke (text Japanese)
  15. ^ Fujita, Satoshi(藤田智) (2009). 体においしい野菜づくり (preview). PHP研究所. p. 78. ISBN 978-4-569-70610-8. ISBN 4-569-70610-X. , written by a horticulture professor at Keisen University and well-known gardening tipster on TV. quote:"発芽した双葉「芽ジソ(青ジソのアオメ、赤ジソのムラメ)」"
  16. ^ Tsuji & Fisher 2007, p.164, commits this error, even though the book explains elsewhere, under the section dedicated to shiso that the "tiny sprouts (mejiso)" are used (p.89).
  17. ^ Ishikawa 1997, p.108 Photograph shows both green shiso sprouts (aome) and slightly larger red shiso sprouts (mura me) with true leaves
  18. ^ Google search using keywords "芽ジソ"+"間引き" (Japanese for mejiso and thinning) turns up many examples, but mostly blogs, etc.
  19. ^ Andoh & Beisch, pp. 12,26–7
  20. ^ Used as such by Japanese-American author, Andoh & Beisch 2005pp.26-7
  21. ^ "名前の由来 (origin to its name)". Mishima foods webpage. 
  22. ^ Shinmura 1976, Kōjien 2nd ed. revised
  23. ^ Rutledge, Bruce. Kūhaku & Other Accounts from Japan (preface). pp. 218–9. ISBN 978-0-974199-50-4. ISBN 0-974199-50-8.  gives this tarako and shiso spaghetti recipe
  24. ^ Kindaichi 1997; 2nd ed.:「紫蘇一畑に作る一年草。ぎざぎざのある葉は紫(緑)色..」
  25. ^ MAFF-stat 2012b, FY2009, title: "Vegetables: Domestic Production Breakdown (野菜の国内生産量の内訳)" , Excel button (h001-21-071.xls)
  26. ^ Aichi Prefecture (2011). "愛知の特産物(平成21年)". Retrieved April 2012.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help), starred data is FY2008 data.
  27. ^ Both these numbers square with MAFF-stat 2012a figures
  28. ^ MAFF-stat 2012a
  29. ^ This can be derived from MAFF-stat 2012a, with minimal data analysis. Aichi produces four times as much as the 2nd ranked Ibaraki Prefecture and Toyohashi grew 48% of it, so about double any other prefectural total.
  30. ^ MAFF-stat 2012c


(Herb books)
(Nutrition and chemistry)
(Japanese dictionaries)
(Japanese misc. sites)
  • Okashin; Okazaki Shinkni Bank(岡崎信用金庫). "あいちの地場産業". Retrieved April 2012.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help): right navbar "9 農業(野菜)"
(Ministry statistics)

External links[edit]