You may see chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum) tea in the supermarket, but there are many more culinary uses for the flower that may have gone unrecognized. Chrysanthemum greens and petals are all edible regardless of the type of chrysanthemum; however, some taste better than others. Some are sweet, others tangy, while peppery or bitter are other flavor profiles. The best way to distinguish which is which is to experiment, knowing there are 13 different types of chrysanthemums.
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The Chrysanthemum in Asian History
Grown as a flowering herb in 15th century B.C. China, the flower was limited to gardens of noble families. In the 8th century A.D., Japan adopted the flower as its national symbol, gracing the royal seal of the emperor of Japan. Today, the emperor's realm is referred to as the Chrysanthemum Throne as a result of citizens placing the flower where the emperor was to sit.
Trade with Europe in the late 17th century introduced the flower from Asia to Europe, then Britain and then to America in 1798. The chrysanthemum was believed to have the power of life. Native peoples boiled the roots to relieve headaches, the young sprouts and petals were added to salads, and the leaves were boiled for a drink. The chrysanthemum is a cool weather flower and most often flowers twice yearly, in early spring and again in the fall.
Edible Chrysanthemums and Asian Cuisine
Garland chrysanthemum greens (Chrysanthemum coronaria), also known as shungiku in Japan, are an essential ingredient in many dishes, especially the sukiyaki hot pot. The Chinese call them tong hao and use the greens in stir fries. They are also incorporated into Taiwanese, Vietnamese and Korean dishes to add crunch and additional flavor to a dish. Flash cooked to retain the crunchiness, they are the last ingredient to be added to a dish.
The flowers are picked and then dried before they are used in tea. The golden color and aromatic flavor enhance the tea while being cooling and calming at the same time. It adds potassium and magnesium to the diet; the Chinese have use herbal chrysanthemum tea for centuries for its various medicinal benefits. The tea is traditionally made from the yellow or white flowers of Chrysanthemum morifolium or Chrysanthemum indicum.
Identifying Poisonous Chrysanthemums
Humans may get contact dermatitis when working in the garden and handling chrysanthemums. Garden gloves are always recommended to avoid swelling. This condition is painful and uncomfortable but not toxic. Cooking or frying removes the toxicity, and since herbal tea is processed, it is considered safe. Plants are potent as a medicine, but be sure to purchase any and all herbal medicines from a reputable firm. Combinations of pork, chicken and celery can also be toxic when mixed with the chrysanthemum.
The flower produces a natural pesticide known as permethrin. Dogs and cats are vulnerable to permethrin when they nibble on chrysanthemum flowers. Coughing, vomiting and shaking are a few of the symptoms displayed with chrysanthemum poisoning, as permethrin affects the animal's nervous system. While the pet may recover, it's safer to avoid leaving the flowers where an animal can be in contact with it.