September is the month when several Asteraceae are in flower including one of my favourite perennial vegetables and edimentals Aster scaber (yes, I know it’s officially Doellingeria scabra) or chamchwi in Korea where it’s cultivated commercially for Korean markets around the world (often sold dried). It’s also popular with pollinating insects as can be seen in the gallery taken this week here.
One of my favourite perennial vegetables and a fantastic edimental is Aster scaber (nowadays Doellengeria scabra), here harvested in spring in my garden:
In September, in a farmer’s market in Atlanta, Georgia I found packets of dried Aster scaber leaves (I had searched unsuccessfully for chwinamul in other Korean supermarkets, but hadn’t found it before):
On the front of the packet is a WARNING: This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm!
On the other hand, on the back of the packet it says: “Keep your health with benefits of HAETAE Sangol Hyanggi Namuls”
Is the reason for the cancer warning on the packet due to the fact that the same packet is used for a range of dried vegetables and shiitake mushrooms (namul), including bracken fern which contains a carcinogen, ptaquiloside (however, it is both water-soluble and is destroyed by heat )
I was also surprised to read what would seem to be the excessive pre-preparation by boiling for 20 mins., followed by a soak overnight and then rinsing 7 times, to remove the bitterness. I’ve never detected bitterness and have understood it’s also used in salads. I wonder also why they are known as “thumbs”?
There are many Asters that are foraged and cultivated in the Far East. This includes Aster scaber (Korean Aster) which is one of the 80 in my book Around the World in 80 plants. I’ve blogged a lot about this fantastic edimental. See http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?s=aster+scaber. In my book, I mention 4 other Asian species that are used as spring vegetables and in my most comprehensive Japanese foraging book there are 8 species mentioned. I’ve now finally flowered two other species, both mentioned in my book, so maybe there’ll be a taste in the spring…they are all late flowering. Here they are at the end of October 2017!
See on FB here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10155527725545860.1073743046.655215859&type=1&l=7a796be893
There are some great autumn flowering edimentals (or edible ornamentals) in the Asteraceae, and this is my favourite of the lot, Korean Aster or Chwinamul (Aster scaber)….and it’s also very photogenic!
If you don’t grow this and aren’t living in Korea, your only chance to try this is to find the dried leaf on Korean markets around the world. Anyone seen it? Like to send me a packet? Here’s how to prepare it: http://www.maangchi.com/recipe/chwinamul
The pictures are from my garden on 10th October 2016 of a plant that originated from a Korean vegetable catalogue!:
I gave myself a little treat this week and made Indian pakora! Pakora are basically fried vegetable fritters, often sold as a starter in Indian restaurants. The vegetables were dipped in a batter made of gram (chick pea) flour, a little chili and garam masala spice. It would be interesting to use broad bean (fava) flour instead of chick peas!
I used: Day lily buds (Hemerocallis), common sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus), radish, red mitsuba (Cryptotaenia japonica atropurpurea), musk mallow (Malva moschata), Korean aster (Aster scaber), sorrel (Rumex acetosa), garden orach (Atriplex hortensis), Parsley pea (tops), Allium nutans x senescens (leaves and flower stems/buds) and Hablitzia tamnoides (tops)…..
There are still many undiscovered (in the west) perennial edibles in the Far East. I’m therefore now concentrating mainly on that area in this quest. This spring I will travel for 3 weeks in Japan as part of this work. Another “country” with a rich diversity of food plants is Korea. With help from my Norwegian / Korean friend Misoni Sandvik whom I mention in my book, and who is on her own quest to find and grow wild herbs she remembers foraging when she was a child in South Korea, I’ve received two books from Korea today entitled “The Wild Greens of Korea” and “The Medicinal Herb of Korea”. There’s often a diffuse boundary between food and medicine in Korea, so the second book is also relevant, including plants like Aralia cordata (Udo)!
April 2014 and Yngvil (aka Ms. Saladdy) was helping out in my garden, her practical experience for her education to become a gardener! I’ll let her tell her own story of the wonderful diverse tempura we made together on that day using perennial veggies!