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Magilla shiso is a variety of wild basil grows as an annual in the shape of a mound, reaching heights of up to three feet. Magilla shiso has broad, oval-shaped, and wrinkly leaves with serrated edges. The large burgundy, green and magenta-colored leaves can grow up to six inches long with the occasional cream variegation. The Magilla variety has a milder aroma than that of other perilla varieties, with hints of basil and mint with a mildly spicy aftertaste. In the late summer, flower spikes grow up from the leaf base and bloom small white flowers.
Magilla shiso is available in the summer through the fall months.
Magilla shiso is a wild, Asian basil cultivar, grown for its ornamental and aromatic foliage. The plant itself has a strikingly similar appearance to that of a common ornamental plant called a coleus, which also happens to be in the mint family. The herb Magilla shiso is botanically classified as Perilla frutescens 'Magilla'. It is sometimes referred to as Magilla purple, Perilla or Beefsteak plant, a name Perilla frutescens was given for its large, maroon-colored leaves which slightly resemble an uncooked beef steak.
Shiso is rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene, as well as other minerals. Shiso contains compounds like apigenen, limonene, and myristicin, called flavonoids and polyphenols that provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Magilla shiso is most commonly found in Asian cuisines. It has the appeal of adding both flavor and a bit of color to many dishes. The herb is used as a spice for fish, vegetables, rice, and soups. Add freshly chopped Magilla shiso to salads or use as a garnish. Pair chopped Magilla shiso with grated ginger and add to stir-fry, tempura or salads. Julienned or roughly chopped Magilla shiso can be used to add flavor and color to the pickling brine for cucumbers or other vegetables. The leaves are tender, and do not store for long periods of time. Wrap unwashed bunches of Magilla shiso in plastic and store in the refrigerator for a few days. Chop the ends of the stems and place a bunch of the herbs in a glass of water to keep longer.
In Chinese medicine, shiso is an anti- inflammatory herb and is used in the treatment of asthma, colds, cough and lung afflictions, influenza prevention, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, constipation, food poisoning and allergic reactions. In the United States, for a time, shiso was used to flavor beverages like sarsaparilla.
The native range for Perilla frutescens is from southeastern Asia to the Himalayas. Magilla shiso is a hybrid species that is highly resistant to drought and extreme hot or cold. It was first discovered amidst the collection of a Japanese specialty grower and was introduced to the market in 2002. Because it does resemble a popular ornamental plant, Magilla shiso is available through many plant and seed companies, and is sold as a border plant for the garden. If not contained, Magilla shiso can escape the garden and as of 2016, it is considered an invasive plant in some areas of the United States. Magilla shiso can be found at local farmer’s markets and at specialty grocery stores.