Seeking your next exotic superfood? Then Perilla, Shiso, Egom or Perilla frutescens, is an ideal candidate for your superfood tick list.
Commonly referred to as Chinese basil, due to the similarity of the appearance in leaves, this plant actually belongs to the mint family and comes with a unique flavor profile as well as a catalogue of health credentials.
1. Where does Perilla come from?
Originally Perilla was found in China, Japan and Korea, but these days it's now commonly found in Vietnam and India spreading as far as the East and Midwest USA where it's sometimes considered as a weed.
The culinary use of the plant harks back to ancient times in ancient Japanese tradition where the leaves were valued for their aroma and flavor.
The seeds are also commonly used, often known as 'wild sesame' and can be turned into oil by pressing.
In general, the nutritional levels of all parts of the Perilla plant are very high.
2. The Superfood for a Longer Life
In Japan consuming Perilla is credited with helping extend life expectancy. Some believe that the properties of the plant, along with the healthy Japanese diet, can help to extend life by as much as ten years.
In countries where Perilla was once traditionally found the leaves and seeds are used as much for medicinal purposes as for their numerous health benefits.
3. The Particular Taste of Perilla
Perilla also has a very distinctive flavor. "We discovered , in the leaves of Egoma , that two already known compounds were able to activate a particolarerecettore called TRPA1, also involved in the perception of pungent compounds of garlic, onion, broccoli, and many other plants and spices. " Explains Egoma Gabriella Morini, a researcher who deals with chemoreception flavor at the University of Gastronomic Sciences.
Interestingly flavor and nutrients are closely related: "The same compounds that give flavor (especially the spicy Chemesthetic sensations, pungent, fresh and bitter taste) are the same that have beneficial activity for our body. "
4. The Benefits of Parilla
In addition to contributing to longer life expectancy, Perilla has many other benefits. Studies on bioactive compounds have led investigations into the possibilities of using the plant as an anti-allergen or even as a natural insecticide.
Perilla serves well as a natural antiseptic, an anti-inflammatory and also helps reduce allergens as well as being known to help prevent cardiovascular problems due to the rich presence of Omega 3.
Its particular aroma also makes it a suitable ingrdient to pair with other foods and drinks, like beer.
5. Perilla in Cooking
Perilla is already commonly found in many Japanese dishes like sushi, which in addition to its aromatic components also brings into play its antibacterial qualities: it can actually neutralize the toxins found in raw fish.
The leaves are also used as a condiment or side dish, while in Korea the seeds are particularly popular, which are ground up and put in soups.
In India Perilla is added to curries where as in Vietnam it's used as garnish and flavouring.
You can even have a go at marinating Perilla leaves at home to enjoy alongside rice.
Have you used Perilla in the kitchen? What do you use it for? Tell us about it on Facebook.