Growing shungiku, edible chrysanthemum
Like so many edibles that are hard to come by in the shops and best freshly picked, growing shungiku is rewarding for the home gardener.
The Japanese call it shungiku, and some call it chop suey herb. Even though ‘edible chrysanthemum’ is a good general description, it’s actually been moved out of the genus Chrysanthemum and is now officially Glebionis coronaria. This tasty and unusual little vegetable is worth growing to spice up seasonal meals.
I used to get it occasionally from my market vendor in Sydney, so thought I’d give growing it a try.
After a bit of trial and error, I’ve worked out that here shungiku grows as a Winter vegetable. My first sowing in Spring suffered from dry conditions and poor soil, and bolted to flower on very spindly stems, but this years Winter sowings are producing good leaves.
Like all leafy greens, you will optimise your crop if it’s grown in rich moist soil. I have made several sowings to keep the picking coming, but it does shoot again if you cut the stem off low. My late Winter sowing is also benefitting from a little shade in the dry and sunny weather.
There are a few culinary uses for it. The aroma has that distinct quality of chrysanthemum leaves, even though it’s not strictly a chrysanthemum. Raw in salads it adds a distinct strong flavour, but I have been using it in Japanese hotpots. A handful of leaves go in (as a bunch, the ingredients are all placed in sectors for presentation) just before it’s brought to the table. It’s also great as the chop suey herb with chicken, which can be a much simpler dish than the chicken chop suey I grew up with. Fry some chopped chicken thighs, roast cashews, onion, and add a little wine to sauce it with the shungiku – yum!
It’s not a vegetable I would want to eat every week, but it’s very nice to have a few rows for greens to star in a few late Winter meals, and if you leave it too long you get beautiful yellow chrysanthemum flowers in your garden – bonus!
I’d recommend giving growing shungiku a try, especially if you like the idea of something special for the kitchen that may not be available in the shops.