Beefsteak plant (Perilla frutescens var. crispa) is a cultigen of Perilla frutescens native to China and India, particularly in the mountainous regions of these two countries. Today, this perennial plant which can be cultivated as an annual is grown worldwide. The use of beefsteak plants is common in East Asian and Southeast Asian cuisines.
This plant is known by different names – the Chinese call this plant zǐsū which means purple perilla, a reference to the color of the foliage. They also call it huíhuísū. Koreans also have two names for this plant – ggaetnip and soyeop. In Japan, this is called shiso while the Vietnamese call this plant tía tô. Its other names include perilla mint, Chinese basil, wild basil, wild coleus, summer coleus, purple mint, and rattlesnake weed.
Ancient Chinese have cultivated beefsteak plants and it was mentioned in 500 AD writings, as a plant then known as su. It is around the eighth or ninth centuries that the plant was introduced in Japan, and it was not until 1855 that the beefsteak plant was introduced in England. It was brought to the United States in the 1860s.
A beefsteak plant can grow to as high as 39 inches tall, decorated with broad, ovate leaves with serrated margins. This is considered today as a weed and invasive species.
Species: P. frutescens
Trinomial Name: Perilla frutescens var. crispa
Beefsteak Plant Trivia
- Beefsteak plant is known in the Ozarks as rattlesnake weed because if you step on dried beefsteak plant, it makes a sound similar to the rattlesnake.
- Check where your cattle is grazing because dried beefsteak plants are considered toxic for cattle.
- Beefsteak plants with purple foliage are used for extracting oil used as a natural pigment.
- The oil from beefsteak plants is distilled and was used in candies and toothpaste. It has been since replaced with a synthetic variety.
Beefsteak Plant Buying Guide
Beefsteak plant leaves are commercially-produced and sold in markets. You can buy potted plants, freshly-cut leaves, dried leaves, powdered leaves, and dried seed. In places where these items are not sold year-round, there is an option of ordering online although the choices are limited and the condition of freshly-cut leaves is not guaranteed despite next-day delivery.
There are several beefsteak plant varieties. It is good to know which one you need. Each differs from the other based on color and the characteristics of the leaves.
- Red shiso (f. purpurea) – Leaves red on both sides, flat surface.
- Ruffled red shiso (f. crispa) – Leaves red on both sides, ruffled surface.
- Green shiso (f. viridis) – Leaves green on both sides, flat surface.
- Ruffled green shiso (f. viridi-crispa) – Leaves green on both sides, ruffled surface.
- Bicolor shiso (f. discolor) – Leaves green on the top side, red on the back, flat surface.
- Variegated shiso (f. rosea) – Leaves a mix of green and red on both sides, flat surface.
Beefsteak Plant Production & Farming in Texas
If you are growing a beefsteak plant, the first thing you should remember is that this is an invasive species. Do not plant this in your garden unless the lot is exclusive for beefsteak plants only because it can overrun the garden and threaten the other plants there. Instead, grow this in a pot or container. Beefsteak plants require moderate watering and at least six hours of sunlight daily.
Beefsteak plants grow in moist, well-draining soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6. The plant cannot survive very cold temperatures and the ideal place to plant beefsteak plants is somewhere where the temperature is around 18°c.
Beefsteak plant is generally pest-free which means the use of pesticides is not required. But it is also recommended to be vigilant in case some common pests appear on the plants. There are ways to control pests without using a pesticide. Against aphids, you can try introducing or attracting lady beetles or wasps which feed on aphids. You can also wash away aphids using a strong spray of water or mix insecticidal soap in it. This will also rid the plant of other pests such as spider mites and whitefly. You can also try using hot pepper wax. Against leafroller, use Spinosad, a natural substance made by a soil bacterium that can be toxic to insects. It is a mixture of two chemicals called spinosyn A and spinosyn D.
Major producers of beefsteak plants are found in different parts of the world India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, South Africa, Zaire, Ethiopia, and West Indies.
In the United States, beefsteak plants are considered an invasive plant, particularly in the central and eastern US. In Texas, it is common to find beefsteak plants that have extended outside of gardens and landscaping beds.
You can buy fresh beefsteak plant leaves sold in a plastic clamshell container which allows you to see the condition of the leaves inside. Beefsteak plant seed oil is sold in bottles. Beefsteak plant packaging may come in a variety of types: plastic food-grade zip lock bag, food-grade liner inside a box, or pail pack, among others.
Enjoying Beefsteak Plant
The best way to enjoy the flavor of a beefsteak plant is cooking or eating young leaves which will have a sweet taste. It emits a strong minty scent. The variety known as green shiso is spicy and resembles the taste of cinnamon.
Store beefsteak plant leaves frozen or dried. To freeze beefsteak plant leaves, simply put these inside a plastic bag and put the plastic bag inside the refrigerator. You can also freeze them using ice cube trays.
To dry beefsteak plant leaves, spread these out on a drying screen and then place this in a warm, dry room to allow it to completely dry. Make sure to turn the leaves every two days to make sure these dry out evenly. You’ll know these are completely dry when they turn brittle.
Beefsteak plant is used for salad. In some Southeast Asian countries, it is also used to flavor rice. The flower of this plant is used for garnishing.
In Japan, beefsteak plants are commonly used for sushi, sashimi, and tempura. It is also a common practice in Japan to use beefsteak plants to make medicinal tea or a sweet drink often enjoyed during the summer. Okinawa Island is an exotic cocktail that combines beefsteak plant with Japanese melon liqueur, kumquats, pineapple, ginger, and gin.
Chinese cooks deep-fry beefsteak plant leaves mixed with ginger and garlic, while Koreans use this to make kimchi, known as Kkaennip Kimchi. Beefsteak plant is also used regularly in food in Laos, Vietnam, and India.
Beefsteak Plant is a low-calorie, low-carb, low-fat, and low-protein food. It is a good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and Folate. It has no cholesterol and no saturated fat and is high in calcium. The leaves of beefsteak plants have fiber, iron, potassium, vitamin A, and riboflavin. The seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids. A 1991 study conducted by Japanese researcher Fumiko Matsumoto revealed that beefsteak plants have a high level of carotene per 100 grams – 7,200 micrograms in purple varieties and 8,700 micrograms in green varieties.
- Calcium: 23mg
- Iron: 9.4mg
- Sodium: 15mg
The leaves of the beefsteak plant have various properties – as antiasthmatic, antibacterial, general antiseptic, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, emollient, expectorant, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antidepressant. Consuming beefsteak plants helps alleviate health problems like cough, cold, and nausea. It also helps in maintaining a healthy cholesterol level.
When Are Beefsteak Plant in Season in Texas?
To find out when Beefsteak Plant are in season in Texas, please check the seasonal chart below. Why is this important? We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas now.