Shungiku: How to Eat it and Cook With it

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Shungiku (春菊, Crown Daisy, Garland chrysanth emum)is a vegetable commonly used in Japan. It grows flowers in Spring and the leaf shape looks like a chrysanthemum, so it’s called shun (spring) giku (chrysanthemum).

You can eat every part of the plant, except the hard stems at the bottom. It’s seen as a herb and a green due to the leafy top part. It taste a bit bitter with a herbal taste.

Popular Japanese recipes like sukiyaki or tempura often use it and you cook it, stir-fry it, or blanch it to make it edible.

It’s popular in Japan and it’s pretty easy to grow.

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What part of the shungiku plant is edible?

Every part is edible except for the hard stems at the bottom. The flower is also edible, but it’s usually used for garnish as it has an even more bitter taste than the stems and leaves.

Shungiku has a subtle unique smell, but it can be eaten raw like coriander. The texture is crisp, and it’s great for a salad as well. 

But the stems have more fiber, and are tough to chew raw. So you may want to stir-fry or boil the stems. That’s why people use it in hot pots so much.

The taste is also unique, so some people don’t like to eat it. If you’re a fan of herbs, then it’s probably going to be your one of your favorites.

Shungiku can be eaten just like other leafy vegetables such as spinach or komatsuna. It’s also full of nutrients, so it’s a great addition to your daily diet. It’s called a herb as well as a green because of this.

Is shungiku a herb or a green?

Shungiku is a Japanese herb and a green

A Japanese herb is a plant that has medicinal effects and has been used for a long time in Japan. This includes shiso leaves, wasabi, and ginger. And shungiku is one of them. Mostly the aroma and flavors are not as strong as Western herbs.

Shungiku is a useful vegetable that can be eaten both raw and cooked. At the same time, it has α-pinene and perillaldehyde that, according to Jucá, D., Silva et al (Planta medica, 2011) improves gastric emptying. It also has an abundance of vitamins and minerals.

What does shungiku taste like?

Shungiku has a bitter and unique, but gentle herbal taste. It’s like leafy vegetables such as spinach and chard, but it has bitterness and a unique taste like kale.

The leaves have a crisp texture similar to rocket salad and stems like Chinese water spinach.

What shungiku alternative can you use to get the same flavor?

“Kikuna” is the best alternative if you want to get the same flavor. It is the same vegetable as shungiku, but it’s bred differently. 

Kikuna has rounded leaves and spinach and komatsuna-like stems, but the taste is the same.

The easiest to find alternative to shungiku would be rocket leaves. You’ll get the same bitterness and crunchy texture and it would be suitable for most dishes.

Shungiku has many ways to cook, so it’s easy to replace it in popular recipes.

What popular Japanese recipes use shungiku?

There are various popular Japanese recipes with shungiku.

There are countless ways to use shungiku in recipes, but below you’ll find the 5 most popular ways to use it.

  1. Sukiyaki Hot pot (or other hot pot)
  2. Tempura
  3. Stir-fry dish
  4. Sesame seed aemono (tossed dish)
  5. Ohitashi (blanched dish)  etc…

With the above dishes, you can blend right into popular Japanese food culture.

There’s not much preparation to go through, so it’s easy to add shungiku to your dish.

How do you cook shungiku?

To cook shungiku, you can simmer, deep-fry, blanch or use other various cooking methods. The 3 most common ways to cook shungiku are below.

  1. Add into soup/hot pot/ stew: It adds some flavor to the soup. The stems get softer, so it’s also easy to eat. Usually add the end of the cooking. Submerge the stems first, then the leaves.
  2. Deep-fry: The oil helps to neutralize the bitterness. It is a way to enjoy the crisp texture of shungiku.
  3. Blanch for aemono/ohitashi: Shungiku is also nice to eat cold, just like spinach. Since the stems are hard, it’s recommended to blanch to enjoy the texture.

Each of the above ways to cook shungiku brings a different texture and flavor profile to the herb.

It’s also very easy to store raw so you can buy a bunch and use it in different ways during the week. The nutrional value keeps very well in the fridge and the health benefits are great.

How do you store shungiku?

To store shungiku, there are only 3 steps you need to follow.

  1. Wrap the stems with a wet paper towel: Wet 2 to 3 paper towels evenly and cover the stems entirely, especially the end of it. It helps to hydrate shungiku. You don’t have to cover the leaves as it may conversely damage them.
  2. Place it inside of a plastic wrap: Less air, less damage! Try to seal it properly, so that every part of shungiku is covered.
  3. Stand it up in a refrigerator: It helps the stems from bending, so it prevents damages.

The above steps help you keep your shungiku fresh in the fridge.

You can also freeze it instead of refrigerating it if you’re going to simmer it. Either way, it helps to keep the shelf-life longer and to retain more nutrients.

What is the nutritional value of shungiku?

According to the U.S Department of Agriculture and Andra Farm, Shungiku has plenty of nutritional value as below.

Nutrition Facts
Serving size                         100 gram
Amount per serving
Calories          20 kcal
Total Fat 0.09 gram
  Saturated Fat 0.022 gram
  Trans Fat 0 gram
Cholesterol 0 gram
Sodium 53 mg
Total Carbohydrate 4.31 grams
  Fiber 2.3 – 3.0 grams
  Total Sugars 2.01 grams
Protein 1.64 grams
Iron 2.29 – 3.74 mg
Riboflavin 0.144 – 0.160 mg
Lutein + zeaxanthin 3,467 – 3,834 μg
Vitamin K 142.7 – 350.0 μg
Calcium 117 mg
Thiamine 0.130 mg
Vitamin B6 0.118 – 0.176 mg
Choline 13 mg
Β-cryptoxanthin 24 μg
Manganese 0.355 – 0.943 mg
Water 91.4 – 92.49 grams
Potassium 567 – 569 mg
Magnesium 32 mg
Folate 50 – 177 μg
Vitamin E 2.50 mg

Since there are abundant nutrients, eating shungiku helps to keep your body healthy.

What are the health benefits of shungiku?

Shungiku has various health benefits with plenty of nutritional value. The 4 most important health benefits are the following.

  1. Improve intestinal environment and nervous system: Shungiku has lots of fiber that helps to absorb more water, which means to have a better bowel movement. And like Jucá, D., Silva et al found in their 2011 study in Planta medica, α-pinene improves gastric emptying.
  2. Prevents osteoporosis: Ushiroyama, T., Ikeda, A., & Ueki, M. (2002) found that Vitamin K and D increases bone mineral density, maintaining a balance in the fibrinolysis-coagulation system and helping women with osteopenia and osteoporosis.
  3. Prevents anemia: Iron and Folate are great nutrients for anemia. Ahmed, F., Khan, M., & Jackson, A. wrote in the American journal of clinical nutrition (2001) that Iron + folic acid + vitamin A reduced anemia by 92%, iron deficiency by 90%, and vitamin A deficiency by 76%. Iron is the source needed to create red blood cells, and folate is the source to support making red blood cells.
  4. Protects our skin and mucous membranes: β-carotene in shungiku changes to Vitamin A, and according to Roche, F., & Harris-Tryon, T. (2021), this Vitamin A plays a crucial role in skin immunity and maintaining the skin microbiome, reducing susceptibility to skin infections and inflammation.

The best seasons for shungiku are Fall and Winter, and those harvested in these seasons have more nutrients than other seasons.

How do you grow shungiku microgreens from seed?

To grow shungiku from seed, control the temperature at around 15~20℃ (59-68 Fahrenheit) and make the soil acidity from mild acidity to neutral

There are just 6 steps to succesfully growing shungiku microgreens from seed as seen below.

  1. Prepare the soil beforehand by adding fertile, moisture-retentive soil, etc
  2. Plant the seeds and water for about 5~7 days
  3. When you see 1 or 2 leaves growing, make a 0.8-1.1 inch space between the leaves
  4. When you see 4 or 5 leaves growing, make a 2-2.4 inches space between the leaves
  5. Harvest when there are 7 to 8 leaves on each shungiku
  6. If you’re going to leave 3 to 4 leaves, give some space of about 6-7.9 inches away

Shungiku is an easier and more convenient plant to grow. But if you’re tired of growing it, you can buy it anytime at supermarkets in Japan!

Is shungiku a popular Japanese herb?

Yes, shungiku is one of the more popular herbs in Japan, especially in January and February, which is the best season for shungiku. 

According to, in 2021, the harvested amount was 27,200 t in Japan. This means 1 person eats about 215 gm in one year.

Japanese people do not consume it daily, but usually add it to their hot pot or sukiyaki to enjoy eating with family. It’s common to see in a usual supermarket in Japan as well.

But it’s also true that some Japanese like and dislike eating it because of its distinct taste.

Some people also eat only with specific cooking methods, such as deep frying or boiling. Some people have also started eating it after they become an adult. It’s a taste most children dislike but you grow into liking.

And it’s not just popular in Japan, it’s also very popular in China for example, where it’s called tong ho.

Is shungiku the same as tong ho?

Shungiku is the same as the tong ho vegetable (茼蒿), which is also called the Chinese crown daisy.

Shungiku is also commonly eaten in other Asian countries, so it’s called differently by Chinese and Asian names. Mostly it’s also stir-fried or simmered into a soup to enjoy.

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Yukino Tsuchihashi is a Japanese writer and recipe developer, who loves exploring different ingredients and food from various countries. She studied in an Asian Culinary School in Singapore.