Growing and Cooking Chrysanthemum Greens (Shungiku)

Ashleigh Smith + photo

Ashleigh Smith

Feb 14
6 min read
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Edible Chrysanthemum Greens on a Woven Mat

I love chrysanthemums, don’t you? Did you know chrysanthemums represent joy and happiness, are edible, and are the birth flower for November? Usually, when people think of Chrysanthemums, they think of the popular fall flower. But the entire plant is actually edible and really tasty. While eating Chrysanthemum greens hasn’t been popular in the West, it has become quite the craze throughout Asian cuisine alongside other salad greens.

The Chrysanthemum plant originated in the Mediterranean and made its way through Europe, then into Africa and Asia. As with many plants, the culinary opportunities for this plant were ignored and disregarded while the flower show took the main stage. Now it is most commonly used as a vegetable in China, Japan, and south-east Asia when harvested as a leafy green or microgreen. Because most western varieties cultivated for the flower have not been regularly used for culinary purposes, I would recommend only growing varieties listed as Chrysanthemum Greens, Edible Chrysanthemum, or Shungiku. These have been selected for their flavor rather than bloom color.

Types of Chrysanthemum Greens

Small Leaf Edible Chrysanthemum Greens

Small-Leaf - This type is most closely related to the wild type. However, Chrysanthemum greens continue to be closely related regardless of the type. Small-leaved Chrysanthemum has thin, feathery, indented light green leaves. Because of its small, upright, non-branching habit, you can expect smaller yields compared to the other types. It is also well-adapted to a wide climate range. This type has a stronger flavor than the others. For a strikingly good flavor, start with the Garland Serrated Leaf Chrysanthemum Greens

Intermediate Chrysanthemum Greens

Intermediate - The Intermediate type is the most popular of them all. It is also commonly listed as ‘Small-leaved’ because of its similar appearance. This type, however, has moderately thick leaves that are ‘cut’ or indented, fast-growing, and a darker green color. It has a bushy, branching habit that generates high yields. This type is well adapted to both warm and cool climates. We recommend trying the Oasis Chrysanthemum variety.

Large Leaf Edible Chrysanthemum Greens

Large-Leaf (Broad) - This type presents large, broad, round, spoon-like leaves that are thicker and more succulent-like. These smooth leaves are also slightly indented. Their large, bushier habit produce high yields. You can expect these leaves to be milder in flavor than the serrated varieties. This type is known to be more popular in South East Asian cuisine. Try Broad Leaf and Garland Round Leaf Edible Chrysanthemum Greens now!

How To Use Chrysanthemum Greens

Cooking Chrysanthemum Leaves and Stems

The leaves are the most used portion of the plant as they can be used both raw or cooked. Although cooking should be limited as high heat can cause the leaves to become more bitter. When lightly cooked or eaten raw, especially while young, these leaves will have a distinct, tangy, and pleasantly mild flavor. With maturity, these plants become stronger in flavor and turn bitter when flowering occurs. Be sure to use your Chrysanthemum harvest fresh, as they do not store well.

Chrysanthemum greens are often used raw or blanched in salads, where they are often mixed with other leafy greens, tomatoes, and bean sprouts. They may be prepared steamed, blanched (ohitashi), lightly boiled, stir-fried, tempura (leaves), added to soup (popular with chicken broth and ginger), stews, and one-pot traditional cooking (hot pot) such as suki-yaki and yosenabe.

Edible Chrysanthemum Flowers

Not only are the leaves and stems edible but so are the flowers. While the whole flower may be consumed, the petals are most popular as the center is quite bitter. The flower petals may be used fresh in soups, salads, or as a garnish. They can also be dried and added to your favorite dishes for the essence of Chrysanthemum. We recommend using them to make Kikumi, a Japanese pickle.

Edible Chrysanthemum Flower

Edible Chrysanthemum Seeds

In addition to the leaves, stems, and flowers, the seeds may also be consumed as sprouts. Follow the standard process of sprouting to enjoy these seeds by themselves or added to your favorite foods as well. If you would rather leave the seed behind, grow them as microgreens to enjoy the most tender leafy stage of growth. There are many ways to enjoy microgreens in your favorite foods, regardless of the culinary culture they come from.

Dyes and Landscaping

Aside from their culinary use, Chrysanthemum plants have historically been used for dyes. It took many years and a lot of travel for Chrysanthemums to be used for food. It originated in the Mediterranean, where it would then travel to Europe, Africa, Asia, and the West. Before it set culinary roots, the flowers would be processed to extract the brown, orange, and olive coloring from the leaf tops and flowers. Western culture primarily uses Chrysanthemums for their beautiful daisy-like blooms in shades of yellow, white, cream, and orange with yellow centers.

How to Grow Chrysanthemum Greens

Growing Chrysanthemum greens is quite easy as this plant has become well-adapted to both cool and warm weather climates. While it is capable of both, it grows best in the cooler spring and autumn months to prevent bitter flavors from developing quickly. These months also work well as these plants can tolerate a light frost and the low light associated with this period of time. Preferably grow in temperatures below 77°F. Growing from seed is ideal, but you may also be successful by propagating by cuttings. Seeds can be directly sown or started indoors for early planting.

  • Latin name: Glebionis coronaria (Previously Chrysanthemum coronarium)
  • Planting Depth: 0.125 inches or pressed into the soil at surface level
  • Plant Spacing: 3-6 inches
  • Days to Germination: 5-10
  • Direct Sow or Start Indoors
  • Leaf Phase: Reach about 12 inches tall
  • Flowering: May reach about 3 feet tall
  • Plant Width: Usually 6-8 inches
  • Leaf Size: About 5 inches long and 1.5 inches wide.
  • Leaf Shape: Varies by plant type. May include oval, thin, broad, indented, saw-tooth, or deeply cut/jagged.
  • Flower Size: 1.5-2 inch blooms with a simple daisy shape.
  • Growth Habit: Bushy, upright, or branched, depending on the type specified above.

When To Harvest Chrysanthemum Greens

Chrysanthemum greens may be harvested as cut-and-come-again or as the whole plant. If you plan to use the cut-and-come-again method, start cutting growth at 4-5 weeks. This is when the plants are 2-4 inches tall. When harvesting the whole plant, wait 6-8 weeks when the plant is about 5-10 inches tall. Waiting too long may result in bitter-tasting leaves. If harvesting as microgreens, use a sharp knife or scissors and cut just above soil level when they are 1-2 inches tall (10-15 days of growth).

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Definitely need to give these a try! Sounds like some tasty additions to other greens!

Sei Paulson

So “chrysanthemum” greens (also called tong ho, or shungiku) are actually a different species to flowering chrysanthemums, even though they look quite similar. They’re classified as Glebionis coronaria. Eating a flowering chrysanthemum won’t hurt you, but they will be very tough and bitter. The dried flowers of the hardy chrysanthemum (C. morifolium) can be used in tea, however!

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