Chrysanthemums, also called mums, are flowering herbs that belong to the Aster family. The chrysanthemums available in the market are diverse. You can choose from over 30 species and several varieties within each species. All chrysanthemum flower petals are edible and are often an ingredient in tea; however, only the species Chrysanthemum coronarium has edible greens.
Chrysanthemum coronarium, also known as garland mum or crown daisy, is an herb with small yellow or white flowers commonly used as an edible in Asia. Several varieties within this species include plants with rounded leaves. They have a mild mustard-like flavour when young, and plants with serrated leaves which have a stronger flavour. When buying plants or seeds, look for these garland chrysanthemum varieties: small leaf, round leaf, tiger ear, broad leaf, komi shungiku salada and oasis.
Chrysanthemums are relatively easy to grow as an annual. They require full sun and well -drained soil. A gardener can start small plants from seed or from cuttings indoors in early spring and transplant them to the garden after the last spring frost. For best results, water whenever the soil gets dry below the surface and fertilise weekly with a chrysanthemum fertiliser until flower buds develop. Pinch back young shoots regularly to encourage branching growth rather than tall growth. Chrysanthemums need uninterrupted darkness at night to promote flowering, so do not expose them to artificial light.
For the best flavour, harvest the leaves of Chrysanthemum coronarium when the plant is young. Use them raw in salads, as a garnish or to top sandwiches. To use them as a cooked vegetable, lightly steam or stir fry as you would prepare spinach, or add them to hot soup just before serving. Many traditional Chinese, Japanese and Eastern European dishes include chrysanthemum greens. Japanese recipes may refer to chrysanthemum greens as shingiku, Chinese recipes, as choy suey green and Cretan recipes as mantilida. Chrysanthemum flower petals make a colourful addition to salad greens.
Health and Nutrition
Historically, people in China consumed chrysanthemums to treat headaches and used them daily with meals to promote long life. The nutritional analysis of garland chrysanthemum suggests that they may indeed help promote long life because they contain antioxidants, potassium, protein, fibre, calcium, phosphorus, thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin A and vitamin C.