Korean perilla leaves (also often referred to as “deulkkae” or “beefsteak plant”) are the main ingredient of the popular Korean banchan dish Kkaennip (깻잎). Unfortunately, it is not easy to buy fresh perilla leaves outside of Korea. The good news is, however, that it is extremely easy to grow your own Korean perilla leaves at home in your garden or even on your balcony. This blog post explains how to do that.
First you need to buy the seeds of the “Korean perilla frutescens var crispa” plant (in Korean called “deulkkae” 들깨). You may find them on the internet from a specialized seed shop or in a Korean store.
Note: Make sure to buy the Korean perilla, and not the Japanese shiso since the flavor and leaf shape are not the same.
Planting & care
The best time to plant the seeds is in April (March and May is also fine). You can plant them directly in the garden or also in pots with a minimum diameter of 25cm. Set the seeds 0.5mm below the earth and ideally with a 25cm distance from each other. To accelerate germination you can also soak the seeds for 24 hours in water before seeding.
The plant grows best when exposed to the sun but equally grows well in half-shadow areas. You can use normal soil that you would use for vegetables. Try to keep the soil moist with regular watering, however occasional short dry periods are not a problem. Avoid too much watering where the plant stands in water.
The plant usually can grow up to 40-60cm (in Korea up to 1m). The plant is an annual plant but also self-seeding so if you let the perilla drop their seeds it can grow every year.
The perilla leaves grow quick and multiple harvests per year are possible. It is best to harvest the leaves when they almost reach the size of your hand. Keep the small leaves on the plant until they reach the right size for the next harvest. You can pick the leaves with your hand by picking them at leaves stems.
Store the perilla leaves in the fridge and consume the perilla quickly (within 1-3 days). Alternatively, marinate them according to the kkaennip recipe for extended storage life.
All in all, perilla is a great plant to grow at home since it is not easy to buy outside of Korea and is of little maintenance whilst providing abundant leaves throughout the year.
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