Sometimes referred to as cooking chrysanthemums, chrysanthemum greens are simply the green leaves that are part of the garland chrysanthemum, a plant that has several edible portions. The greens of the plant can be used in cooked dishes as well as being an excellent ingredient in a number of tossed salads.
Edible chrysanthemum plants bear a striking resemblance to the ornamental chrysanthemum that is popular in many flower gardens. Unlike the ornamental type edible chrysanthemums are often cultivated and harvested for not only the greens, but also for the stems of the plant. When cooked, the stems are very tender and can often be used in recipes in place of asparagus stems.
The chrysanthemum greens can be cooked down in a manner similar to turnip, collard, or mustard greens, and flavored with herbs and other seasonings. As an additive to soups stews and casseroles, chrysanthemum greens are a great way to add a shot of green color to the dishes, as well as enhance the overall flavor of the dish.
Often, chrysanthemum greens are a shade that is much darker than iceberg lettuce, but not quite as dark as spinach leaves. Using a mixture of lettuce, spinach, and chrysanthemum greens can make a dramatic looking green salad, with nothing other than a nice vinaigrette dressing and perhaps some dried cranberries. In like manner, finely chopping the chrysanthemum greens will yield a product that can easily be used in dips that are made along the same lines as spinach dip.
One thing to keep in mind about chrysanthemum greens is that once the garland chrysanthemum has begun to flower, the greens will have a bitter rather than a tangy taste. Also, overcooking the greens can lead to a chance in the flavor that has a bitter overtone. Cooking or steaming the chrysanthemum greens on a lower heat and making sure to use young greens will yield a superior taste. When using chrysanthemum greens in a stir fry recipe, make sure to add them as one of the last ingredients.
While chrysanthemum greens are not widely available in supermarkets, some specialty food markets and organic food stores are beginning to give more attention to the greens, since they do pack more nutrients than many green leafy foods. At the present time, the chrysanthemum greens tend to be more expensive than other fresh produce options, but the taste is well worth the expense. Look for chrysanthemum greens under several different names, such as chop suey greens, shingku, or tong ho choi.