Spice Descriptions and Uses

Shiso, aojiso, akajiso, cinnamon plant, beefsteak plant, Perilla frutescens

Common to Japanese cooking, shiso is a broad, green-and-purple leaf with a serrated edge. Also known as perilla, beefsteak plant and Japanese basil, the crepe-textured leaf is related to mint and basil and tastes like both. Used as a garnish with sushi and sashimi, it's also used to add flavour and colour to preserved ginger and pickled umeboshi plums.

Shiso belongs to the same family as mint or basil, but its fragrance is completely different. Both green and purple shiso are produced in Japan.

Red shiso leaves can be used to make a pink-hued vinegar, and a lovely pink rice is achieved by mixing in a few chopped leaves just before serving. It also enhances the flavor of rice, tossed salads, soups and cheese balls. The seeds have a strong, sweet taste and are especially good when crushed and added to herb mustards.

Here's a super summery chill-out recipe for green tea and shiso granita ice with fresh cherries.

Place 2 tablespoons of loose green tea, 6 shiso leaves and 3/4 cup sugar in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add 3 cups of boiling water, stir to dissolve the sugar, and let steep for 5 minutes. Strain into a clean bowl and cool to room temperature. Once it's cooled, stir again and place the bowl in the freezer for about an hour, until the mixture begins to freeze around the edges and across the surface. Whisk to break up the ice crystals. Return to the freezer. Remove and whisk again once an hour until all the liquid has frozen and has a grainy consistency, about five hours. When you're ready to serve it, spoon scoops into serving bowls and top with fresh cherries.