This herb was introduced to many other regions from China, where it has been cultivated for at least 1,500 years and likely much longer. It’s from there that shiso came to Japan over 1,000 years ago. From China it also spread to Korea and some parts of Southeast Asia like Vietnam and Laos.
In the thousands of years since humans began cultivating shiso, multiple varieties have been developed that include different types of both green and red shiso. The latter is a dark, cool purple color and is mostly used for coloring foods a reddish color, such as umeboshi (Japanese pickled plum).
As a relative of mint, green shiso does have a reminiscent fragrance and taste that’s pleasantly bright and fresh. Certain varieties are especially well-suited to different uses, but generally speaking shiso is quite versatile. It’s used as a garnish, in brines, salads, and stir fries, powdered as a seasoning, fried whole, and more.
Uwajimaya carries fresh shiso in our produce departments.