Chinese basil (Shiso)
Shiso, also known as Japanese or Chinese basil, is known scientifically as Perilla frutescens. It is an aromatic plant of oriental origin, similar to basil in appearance, but with a unique aroma and flavour: shiso is an unexpected blend of aniseed, lemon balm, mint, basil, cinnamon, clove and citrus.
There are several varieties of Perilla, depending partly on geographical area, but the most common are green shiso, used for decoration and as a herb (it’s also an excellent replacement for pesto), and red shiso, used in the cooking water for pasta and rice to give the dish a more colourful and joyous appearance.
The leaves (whose juice disinfects and heals cuts and wounds), the seeds and the oil from cold-pressing these are used in the treatment of influenza. Chinese basil has always been a key element in traditional eastern medicine, used by those with allergies in the pollen season and by pregnant women to combat morning sickness. A fun fact: If the leaves are rubbed over the skin, they protect against mosquitoes.