If you’re looking for a fun and unexpected plant to add to your microgreens garden, why not try shiso? Shiso (Perilla frutescens) is an herb that’s very popular in Japanese cuisine but doesn’t get enough attention stateside. It takes a few months to grow a mature shiso plant, but shiso microgreens can be ready in as little as 8 days! They’re definitely worth a shot, especially with how much flavor is at stake.
Shiso is in the mint family and is often called Perilla mint. That doesn’t mean it’s going to taste like toothpaste though. Yes, they have some mint flavor, but mature shiso plants also feature a blend of flavors from zingy-fresh cilantro and basil to warm cloves and cinnamon.
Green shiso microgreens are a bit more simplistic in flavor, but no less delicious. They’re often described as having an anise and slightly sweet licorice flavor, which is a fun garnish.
Shiso microgreens are also great for adding a splash of color to your food and microgreens herb garden. Some varieties have deep red-purple tones that have earned it the nickname “beefsteak plant”.
This plant is also quite colorful when it comes to nutrients. Green shiso is loaded with Vitamins A, C, and K, iron, fiber, calcium, and potassium. Perilla mint has even been used to treat arthritis, eczema, and cold symptoms.
Shiso microgreens may seem unfamiliar and a bit daunting, but they’re very easy to grow. They follow nearly the same growing process as most microgreens and use the same materials. So, whether you’re new to microgreen gardening or an old hand, you’ll have no problem growing a tasty crop of shiso microgreens.
Growing shiso microgreens isn’t complicated, as outlined in the above video.
Shiso Microgreens Quick Info
|Flavor:||Licorice, anise and cinnamon, mint and basil|
|Ideal Harvest:||8-25 days|
Growing Shiso Microgreens
Once you have a good setup, it’ll be easy to try out all sorts of micro greens. Some gardeners stock their microgreens on a wire rack while others spread out growing trays on their kitchen counters. As you practice growing them, you’ll get a sense for what does and doesn’t work in your own garden.
Supplies for a Perilla mint microgreens garden include seeds, growing medium, a grow light, growing trays, and misting bottle.
Here are the supplies you’ll need to set up your Perilla mint microgreens garden:
- Seeds: Choose any of the many varieties of Perilla mint seeds
- Growing medium: Seed-starting mix or coconut coir.
- Light: A T5 grow light will make a world of difference in your microgreens garden.
- Growing trays: one solid tray and one with drainage holes
- Misting bottle
- Kitchen shears
- Small weight (up to 5 pounds)
- Heating mat (optional); we prefer the Epic Seed Starting Heat Mat!
There are several varieties of shiso that have varying characteristics in microgreens. Your basic green shiso will have silvery green leaves. Red shiso microgreens have lovely, deep purple and red leaves.
Or, if you’re after something even fancier, bicolor and variegated shiso is a mix of the two colors. For instance, Botanical Interests has a great Green and Red Shiso Perilla variety! Any of these will make a tasty bunch of shiso microgreens.
The growing containers for micro greens need to be wide and shallow. 10×20 inches is a pretty standard size that only needs about an ounce of green shiso seed. Each crop needs two growing trays, one of which has drainage holes. The other one has to be solid because we’ll be using it for watering later.
Soak shiso seeds in cold water for at least 2-4 hours before sowing to speed up the germination process.
Shiso seeds are round and textured with a thick hull. Though they’ll germinate without soaking, extra moisture will considerably speed up the process. Soak your shiso seeds in cold water for at least 2-4 hours before sowing.
Spread soaked shiso seeds on a filled sprouting tray with good airflow, cover with a weight and a holeless tray.
While your green or purple shiso seeds are soaking, grab your sprouting trays and soil. Fill the tray with drainage holes to just below the rim. Smooth out the surface and remove any large debris from the soil.
Then, you can drain the green shiso seeds and spread them across the tray. They should be crowded together without touching or overlapping. Though we want a dense mat of Perilla mint microgreens, we also have to make room for good airflow between the sprouts.
Give your seeds a good watering with the spray bottle. Then, instead of covering them with soil, place the holeless tray directly on top of the seeds. To keep the cover in place and encourage even growth, place a small weight on top. It could be a rock, book, or anything else under 5 pounds.
To boost the germination rate even more, place a heating mat under the seeding tray. Keep the soil at around 75°F (24°C) until at least half of the seeds have germinated (remember that too much heat can inhibit germination).
During the 3-5 day blackout period, green shiso seeds are covered until they germinate and grow.
Once planted and covered, your green shiso seeds are officially in the blackout period. This should last as long as it takes for the majority of the seeds to germinate, plus a couple of days for growth. Shiso seeds germinate pretty well, so the blackout period will last for 3-5 days, depending on the variety.
When your shiso sprouts are ready for some sunlight, they’ll collectively push up the cover tray and weight. Remove the cover and position the tray about a foot under the grow lights. Turn on the lights for at least 6-9 hours a day.
Your shiso microgreens will probably be thirsty by now. To avoid bacterial growth in the purple leaves, water them from the bottom of the tray instead of on top.
You can reuse the solid tray for this by filling it with a bit of water and setting the grow tray inside it. After 10-15 minutes, separate the trays. Repeat this bottom-watering process whenever the soil surface starts to dry out.
To harvest Perilla mint microgreens, clip the leaves before they exceed 2-3 inches tall using kitchen shears.
Perilla mint microgreens are usually harvested after the first true leaves grow in. These serrated leaves will grow in after the round cotyledons have unfolded.
The older each beefsteak plant gets, the more it’ll start to get the spicy mint and basil flavor that’s present when shiso reaches maturity. However, you’ll need to harvest them before the microgreens outgrow their shallow tray. Aim for collecting your greens before they exceed 2-3 inches tall.
To harvest Perilla mint microgreens, clip the pale green stems in bunches. Kitchen shears are the easiest way to do this, but you can also use a clean knife. Perilla mint microgreens have the best flavor when fresh, so you may want to harvest as needed. Just be sure not to wait too long!
Green shiso microgreens are unlikely to regrow after a harvest, so you can compost the soil and start a new crop right away.
Before planting anything new though, thoroughly wash the trays and any tools used. For your next crop, you could try some fennel or sorrel microgreens (or give purple shiso another go!).
Leftover green shiso microgreens should be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Eat your freshly-harvested Perilla mint microgreens raw. They make a great garnish for spicy dishes, sushi, fish, teas, and sweet treats. Shiso’s unique cinnamon, anise, mint, and basil flavor will be fun to try out with many different recipes, whether it’s an entree or dessert.
Leftover green shiso microgreens should be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
They have a shelf life of about a week but are best eaten as soon as possible. To help preserve freshness, wrap the Perilla mint microgreens in a paper towel in their container. The towel will absorb excess moisture and can easily be switched out as needed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do you grow shiso microgreens?
A: Green shiso microgreens grow very similarly to most other microgreens. Unlike some microgreens, though, you’ll need to soak the seed before planting and can wait for the first true leaves before harvesting.
Q: What do shiso microgreens taste like?
A: Green shiso microgreens are often described as having notes of anise, licorice, or mint and basil flavor. Along with that flavor comes good amounts of vitamins, fiber, and phosphorus.
Q: Is it hard to grow shiso?
A: No, green shiso microgreens are pretty standard to grow. With the right setup and process, you could be harvesting them in under a month.
Q: What are the most sought-after microgreens?
A: Shiso is a favorite in Japan. Arugula microgreens and radish microgreens are also popular, though there’s a huge quantity of microgreen plants that sell well.
Q: Can I grow shiso indoors?
A: Yes! This mint-and-basil-flavored plant may be a favorite in Japan, but it can be grown anywhere indoors. The easiest way is to grow it as microgreens.
Q: Can you eat shiso leaves raw?
A: Yes, in fact, green shiso microgreens hold up and taste best when raw. They make a nice addition to sushi, sashimi, salads, fish, and meats, thanks to their notes of mint and basil and hints of spice.
Q: Is shiso toxic?
A: Cultivated Perilla mint (purple or green shiso) is safe to eat, but wild varieties may be toxic. You should only grow Perilla mint seed from a trusted supplier.