Scientific Name: Perilla frutescens var. Crispa
Common Names: Perilla 'Red', Perilla 'Red Crispa', Red Perilla, Purple Perilla, Red Shiso, Purple Shiso, Beefsteak Plant, Akajiso
Red Perilla is an open-pollinated variety that has been used in Japanese and Chinese cooking for centuries. You can collect the seeds of this variety year after year and they'll grow true to type.
The leaves of Red Perilla are rich in shisonin, a type of anthocyanin unique to Red varieties of Perilla that gives them their vibrant colouration. Traditional ways of eating Red Perilla leaves include frying them with garlic and ginger in oil, using them in sashimi preparations, or pickling them. The leaves can also be infused in boiling water and drunk as a tea with a sweetener such as honey or agave nectar added.
Red Perilla grows best when planted in a full sun location, but it will also tolerate light shade. The more sunlight your Red Perilla plants receive the more concentrated in red pigmentation their leaves will be. Red Perilla grows best in soils which are free draining, grow in raised beds if your garden soil is compacted or heavy in clay particles. Red Perilla can be a heavy feeder so be sure to dig lots of organic fertiliser, well-rotted manures, compost or worm castings through the soil prior to planting. Fertilise monthly with an organic liquid fertiliser, worm juice or a pelleted fertiliser to maintain healthy growth. Red Perilla doesn't like drying out so water it regularly and mulch around your plants well to retain moisture, suppress weeds and keep their root systems cool. Pinch out shoot tips to encourage your Red Perilla plants to become bushier. Red Perilla will self-sow through your garden if conditions are favourable, pinch off their flowering spikes before they fully form if this becomes problematic.
When To Sow:
In temperate and subtropical regions of Australia sow Red Perilla seeds from September to February. In tropical regions of Australia sow Red Perilla seeds from May to August.
How To Sow:
Germination rates for Red Perilla seeds can be improved by cold stratifying the seed prior to sowing. To do this mix equal parts of seed and damp sand in a ziplock bag and store in your refrigerator for one week. Do not use sand that is dripping wet otherwise your Red Perilla seeds may rot. Remove the bag from your refrigerator and soak the contents in lukewarm water overnight before sowing out the seeds. This process tricks the Red Perilla seeds into thinking they've experienced a cold Winter and the warm water soak afterwards helps to speed up germination. Red Perilla seeds require light to germinate so sow them no more than 3mm deep into the soil, cover them lightly with soil and firm down to prevent moisture loss from the surface which could otherwise dry and kill your germinating seeds. Space or thin Perilla seedlings to 35cm apart to give them plenty of room to grow.
Red Perilla seeds can have erratic and slow germination, with seedlings taking between 11 and 30 days to emerge once sown.
Time To Harvest:
Red Perilla plants take between 8 and 10 weeks to start producing good quantities of leaves, although you will be able to harvest shoot tips and individual leaves as needed before then.