Serious Eats

Seriously Asian: Chrysanthemum Greens

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[Photographs: Chichi Wang]

If you like the smell of chrysanthemum flowers and the taste of tea brewed with the dried flower buds, then consider eating chrysanthemum greens. You'll find the vegetable in any number of Asian markets—Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Southeast Asian—during the spring to autumn seasons. (Keep your eyes peeled, as it is sometimes referred to as crown daisy.)

If the greens are young and fresh, you can enjoy both the leaves and stalks raw in salads. Young greens should have stalks that are no wider than 1/8-inch in diameter—any wider, and the taste is too bitter and strong to be eaten raw. More likely than not, the chrysanthemum greens you'll find in markets will be mature and taste better in cooked form. Lightly steamed or boiled, chrysanthemum greens have a mildly grassy, herbaceous taste with stalks that are sweet and slightly crunchy. The greens are common additions to sukiyaki and shabu-shabu, and are also very good in soups.

The trick to preparing chrysanthemum greens is to not overcook them. Chrysanthemum greens will turn to mushy, slimy clumps of leaves in a matter of seconds, so when boiling, simmering, or steaming the greens, it's best to stand near the stove and be vigilant with the cooking time. Uncut, the greens will take no more than 30 seconds to cook in boiling water and even less time if you choose to cut up the greens into segments. You'll know the leaves are done when they begin to soften in the water but do not look as though the water has completely soaked them. My favorite way to eat the greens is to parboil them whole for 20 to 30 seconds and then let the greens cool to room temperature before dressing them in salad dressing.

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The Japanese will pair chrysanthemum greens with a sesame dressing; the nuttiness of the dressing is a great contrast to the grassiness of the plant. A classic version of Japanese sesame dressing uses two sesame components: a spoonful of sesame seeds that are toasted and then ground in a mortar and pestle, as well as a few spoonfuls of sesame paste (tahini). Mirin, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and dashi round out the flavors in this classic dressing that pairs so well with chrysanthemum greens.

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