Grow it, Make it: Chrysanthemum Syrup
Shungiku (aka: edible chrysanthemum) is typically grown as stir fry greens, leaves plucked tender and young way before any beautiful buds bloom...but I think the real gift are it’s edible flowers which are not only showstoppers in the garden, but can be dried and used for tea…not to mention a slew of other culinary delights!
This spring was my first time growing the edible chrysanthemum variety - and full disclosure - it was a total experiment (as a lot of my new gardening attempts happen to be). Experiment or not, it proved extremely successful, with one towering plant providing multiple rounds of large harvests over a period of 3 months…in fact, it’s still going despite the spring buggers having eaten most of the green leaves…but the flowers?! Oh my word, the flowers keep coming and they are superb!
I didn’t have much luck in full sun with the initial seed starter (I’m located in a pretty dry and hot zone 10 for reference) so I planted the straggly little plant into my herb bed sometime in February alongside oregano and thyme thinking maybe I’d see a flower or two pop up over spring. Little did I know that this would not only become a mini bouquet but a massive floral centerpiece - towering over 6 feet tall! Loving live with morning and evening sun and very damp soil thanks to the herb covering below.
Come to think of it, I think the success of my herbs this spring have a lot to do with said chrysanthemum tower, providing them dappled light to grow stronger than ever - excellent companion planting at it’s best (proving sometimes we learn our best gardening tricks by mistake)!
Growing Shungiku is incredibly easy and can even be done in a container if you don’t have much space! It thrives exceptionally well in cool coastal gardens, but can also be successfully grown spring through late summer in milder to warmer climates with the right amount of watering and sunlight. Get the deets below!
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Getting Started: Seed every three weeks from March to September for a continuous harvest. Shungiku likes fertile soil, start with an organic seed starter fertilizer and organic soil mix before spreading seeds in a row and pressing into dirt. Cover with only 1/4 - 1/2 inch of dirt, water regularly until established and greens have sprouted. Thin back extra plant sprouts if needed, reaches maturity in 45 days.
Harvest: Cut blooms when fully open to promote additional flower growth. Plants will yield multiple rounds of flowers, far outlasting the lusciousness of its green leaves. If you would like to eat the greens, harvest them young when tender and try tossing in a stir-fry or mix salad. Plant has the ability to grow quite tall, trim as needed to contain in your desired growing area.
So now we’ve got baskets of flowers with more on the way…what are we going to do about it?! First, make a mini bouquet for your kitchen window sill - you deserve a reward for getting these buds to bloom (plus they last several days in fresh water and are a treat to look at)!
Next - time to dehydrate. By dehydrating blooms, you’ll have plenty to play with for months to come - be it teas or syrups, the infusion possibilities are endless and just the start of the culinary fun! You can choose to dehydrate tied to a string in a sunny spot, or even faster inside a culinary dehydrator. Just make sure all stem and greens are pruned to remove any extra moisture.
For my initial harvest, I decided on a simple syrup that will store well for several weeks and allow me to experiment with it on a variety of recipes (I see a cocktail and a dessert coming soon). The flavor is delicate, like a camomile tea, but earthy enough to add depth even through the sweetness of the syrup. In a word: It’s delightful.
I hope you give this plant a try and if not just to enjoy the sunny blooms blowing in the summer breeze, but hopefully to also inspire you in making a few unique floral infusions of your own.
Grab the recipe below!
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup dried chrysanthemum buds, stems and green leaves removed (approx. 6-8 flowers)
If starting with fresh chrysanthemum place into a dehydrator for 8-12 hours until all moisture is removed. Store in a sealed container until ready for use. In a saucepan, combine water and sugar and bring to a boil until solids dissolve. Add in dried chrysanthemum flowers, remove from head and let steep covered for 20-30 minutes. Strain out any solids and allow to cool before placing in a sterilized container. Syrup should last for 3-4 weeks. For a thicker sweeter syrup, try a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water and allow flowers to infuse for a little bit longer until desired taste is reached.
HOW TO USE IT
This syrup is delicate, herbaceous and floral all in one swoop. Use it as an elevated sweetener for your summer iced tea or cocktail spritz. Fold it into homemade vanilla ice cream before freezing for an unexpected twist! Or even add it as a sugar substitute for whipped cream or other desserts (like a glaze on top of a citrus cake). - it’s such a soft floral flavor that will really take a number of recipes to the next level.
Most important rule: Have fun and experiment!
Want to make this before your flowers have sprouted?! I hear ya! You can buy dried organic chrysanthemum blooms online here…or can even swap this recipe out with dried chamomile for a similar effect.
Want to grow and make something specific?!
Let us know what you want to learn about in the comments below and we’ll get a plot in our garden ready for you!