Chrysanthemum – not just a pretty flower

One of the new to me vegetebles that I’ve grown this year is Chrysanthemum Greens aka Chop Suey Greens.

The edible Chrysanthemum is grown for its leaves and the young tender stems. It is related to the flowering kind, but there are specific varieties out there that are grown for eating. I’m tempted to let some of mine go to flower so I can see what they look like.


For anything non-standard or new to me, in the vegetable garden I always go straight to Joy Larkcom’s Oriental Vegetables book; over the year’s I’ve found it a must read for growing oriental vegies at home, her knowledge, experience and passion are unrivalled.

She writes of Chrysanthemum greens being of a humble origin; the anglicized version Chop Suey, comes from the boiled up leftovers from restaurants given to the poor. Which to be honest doesn’t make it sound very appealing!

But whatever their origins I find Oriental greens generally easy to grow at home, delicious, nutritious and great for Spring and Autumn growing. They don’t generally like the dry heat of summer, preferring cooler weather. Well that suits me just fine!

The leaves are wilted or blanched, but only VERY briefly as over-cooking makes them bitter.They do have a slight bitter taste anyway, so over-cooking would heighten any bitterness.  Alternatively the young leaves can be used raw in salads to give a bit of a tang to them. And of course there are always stir-frys.

I like the way the Japanese prepare them for salads; by rapidly blanching them (30 seconds) till the leaves have wilted and then running them under a cold tap to stop the cooking process When they are prepared like this, the Chrysanthemum greens are dark and glossy.

I think a salad of these with some shredded carrots, spring onions, bean sprouts and a light vinegar/soy dressing would work brilliantly. But I’m in the mood to have a dish of cooked greens to go with my noodles and mooli tonight. So I’ll wilt them, and then dress them with some soy sauce and sesame oil. Nice and simple.

Gardening notes ~

Chrysanthemum Greens / Chop Suey Greens ~

I’ve found them very easy to grow. I started them off in a module then transplanted them when they had grown a few baby leaves, and planted them about 6″ apart, watered them, and left them to it. As for pests, they have done the best of all my Oriental Greens, no nibbles, the slugs stayed off them, and the white fly don’t seem interested. That’s a WIN WIN in my book.


Indian Mustard – Amsoi ~

Beautiful big red rounded leaves, that have a strong peppery -mustard taste. Again easy to grow, a little nibble here and there from garden pests, but generally left untouched. Lovely picked young for salads (you only need a few) or larger for stir-frys where the mustard – pepper flavour reduces.


Kailan / Chinese Broccoli ~

Is growing well. I was advised to pinch out the main growing stalk to encourage more shoots to grow. It seems to be working. A little slow at getting started, but I’m told the tender shoots are well worth the wait.

Pak Choi – Red and Green ~

These have largely been obliterated by a dry autumn and slugs. Not happy. But I’ll sow some more early spring to get some fresh greens. I think I need to be a bit more vigilant in my slug/snail dealings!

Choy Sum –

Has been well and truly munched by marauding slugs and snails. A plan b is needed here as it is one of my favourites.

Mooli –

Still growing beautifully in the large buckets and bags. These will withstand heavy frosts, snow, you name it. I’ve found a new recipe to try out so will post that in the next day or so. YU-UM! Unfortunately the photogenic mooli that I envisaged, snapped off when I was pulling it out of the soil. Slowly does it next time…



  • Well, this was an education. I’m going to print it out the next time I’m heading to one of the area’s Asian markets. I walk through the produce section not knowing what half of it is. Armed with this post, I may be able to make sense out of a few of them. One has to start somewhere.

    • Hi John, now I know exactly what you mean! When I first moved to London I regularly shopped in Asian, Indian and African stores, and it was mind boggoling! I’ll try and dig out some more photos and details, there is some “wonderous” food to be sampled out there. And thanks for popping in 🙂

  • Fascinating selection of greens. I’ll bet you would like Komatsuna. It’s a bit like Bok Choy, but it comes in red or green. Very nice Asian green. I haven’t heard of some of the ones you have growing. Thanks for the post.

    • Hi Lou, and thanks for popping in. And a great suggestion of Komatsuma. I haven’t grown it, and I’m not sure why as I have a packet of seeds (unopened) sitting in my seed box! memo to self to try them out

  • Ah, so there is an edible type of mum. Someone came into where I work asking for it. The horticulturalist had gone for the day and the rest of us were like O_O

    I love your educational blog so very, very much. 🙂

    • Haha, a “mum” in it, so true 🙂
      Thank you for your kind compliments. I love sharing what’s going on around here, so it’s great to get some feedback 🙂

  • I loved your post I have been looking at edible chrysanthemum in the seed catalogue. I remember a Chinese student I had living with me had chrysanthemum tea and the flowers looked like the ones in your picture,perhaps they are from the same plant it would be interesting to find out.

    I will definitely put them on my seed list now.

    • Thank you 🙂 I hope you like it, it has a slightly bitter taste, which I can imagine some people might not like, but I do.
      The picture of the flowers was taken at a market in Madurai in S India a few years back. A friend is growing these as well and hers have a small yellow flower.
      And I now need to go and find out about the tea you mentioned, I adore Jasmine tea, so I need to pay a visit to my favourite tea and coffee shop in London and ask about Chrysanthemum tea 🙂

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