Japanese agriculture, forestry, fisheries and food
Highlighted Japanese IngredientPerilla (Egoma)
What is perilla?
Perilla is an annual plant in the Lamiaceae family. Although it looks a lot like green shiso, its leaves are firmer and generally rounder.
Perilla originated in Southeast Asia and has been grown in various Asian regions since antiquity. In South Korea, perilla leaves are typically eaten with grilled meat or used as an ingredient of kimchi. In Japan, however, it is mainly perilla seeds that are eaten. In the Tohoku region and other areas, local cuisine that uses perilla miso, which is a mix of ground up perilla seeds, miso, and other ingredients, has long been a staple.
Can eating perilla make you live ten years longer!?
In Japan, perilla is also called juunen, which literally means ten years. This is because it has long been said that eating perilla will make you live ten years longer.
The results of modern research suggest that there is some truth to this old saying, so perilla is currently quite a hot topic. We’ve learned that perilla seeds are rich in a certain ingredient essential to health.
α-Linolenic acid, an ingredient essential to health that everyone’s talking about
Perilla is rich in α-Linolenic acid. α-Linolenic acid is an essential fatty acid that cannot be produced within the human body and must therefore be acquired through diet. Specifically, it is an omega-3 fatty acid. This fatty acid is used to form DHA and EPA in the body through metabolism, which have various beneficial effects that include a reduced cholesterol level and blood pressure, less severe allergies, the prevention of dementia, and dieting and anti-aging benefits.
These fatty acids are also responsible for the creation of cell membranes in humans. Eating the right amount of high-quality oil therefore helps rebuild cell membranes and is extremely important for maintaining a youthful, healthy body.
The fish of the field
Omega-3 fatty acids can also be found in other vegetable oils, but the perilla oil extracted from perilla seeds is 60% α-Linolenic acid by volume! It is the highest among all vegetable oils.
Because a lot of DHA and EPA—ingredients essential to health that are formed from α-Linolenic acid in the body—can be found in blueback fish, perilla is also called the fish of the field.
The recommended daily intake of DHA and EPA is equal to the amount in three sardines. It is hard to eat a lot of sardines every day, but a teaspoon of perilla oil can be eaten instead. This is therefore an easy way to get enough of these ingredients essential to health.
Perilla should be eaten fresh without heating it up
If you want to absorb the α-Linolenic acid in perilla oil effectively, it is recommended to eat it as a topping for salad or other prepared food without heating it up.
Traditional methods for producing perilla oil involve squeezing the oil out of seeds by applying pressure without heating them up or at low temperatures. These methods are therefore popular for making perilla oil without reducing its nutritional value.
This oil can be used to add flavor or color to cooking thanks to its fragrance, which is similar to nuts or hay, and golden hue.
Uses of perilla for organic farming
In addition to areas where perilla has been grown for many years, farmers in other areas have recently started growing it due to community building efforts. When plants in the Lamiaceae family get big, they give off a unique fragrance that can repel insects, and it is said that the fragrance can also repel animals such as wild boars. As organic farming becomes more common, perilla is attracting more attention as a plant good for both the human body and the environment.
In Japan, agricultural products (including processed products) approved by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries can bear the organic JAS mark. Japanese perilla oil includes products with this mark as well as organic certification from the US government and EU.
Telling the world about the benefits of perilla
In Japan, perilla oil is a mainstay in the cooking-oil section of major supermarkets, but it’s still not very well-known in other countries.
As the global population continues to age, the demand for perilla oil as a handy source of ingredients essential to health is likely to increase from now on.