Shungiku (シュンギク)

Shungiku (the scientific name: Chrysanthemum coronarium, Syn, Leucanthemum coronarium, or Glebionis coronaria, the English name: Crown daisy) is a plant native to the Mediterranean coast, and is classified in the genus Chrysanthemum of the family Asteraceae. In Europe it is grown mostly for ornamental purposes. Because the plant produces flowers in the spring and the shape of the leaves resemble that of the chrysanthemum, it is called Shungiku (spring chrysanthemum) in Japanese. The type with less distinctly laciniated leaves is called Oba (big leaves) and is grown in Shikoku and Kyushu (where it is also referred to as 'Otafuku' and 'Roma'), whereas the type with laciniated leaves is called Chuba (medium-size leaves) and is grown in regions to the east of Shikoku and Kyushu. The Chuba type is further divided into the clump style (which the branched leaves are harvested) and the one-root style (which the entire plant is harvested from the root). It is also called Kikuna (chrysanthemum leaves) in Kansai region, because of its scent and shapes of the leaves and flowers.

Food uses

The leaves and stems with particular aroma are eaten. The plant is rich in vitamins, calcium, and chlorophyll. Shungiku is added to hot pots such as Sukiyaki and fugu (blow-fish) hot pot, and is also eaten fresh as salad. It is also popular as a tempura-dish; 'shungiku-ten' (tempura of shungiku) is one of the standard items at the tachigui (standing eating style) soba and udon shops. Shungiku is in season between November and March.

The taste varies depending on the area of its production; shungiku from Tokyo tastes bitter, whereas shungiku from Hiroshima tastes sweet. In many cases, it is cultivated close to the cities such as Osaka prefecture. In addition, Shungiku is consumed as an edible plant only in the East Asia.

Ornamental uses
In Europe it is grown for ornamental purposes.

The plant produces beautiful yellow flowers as seen in the photograph, which is not commonly known in Japan perhaps for the fact that the people mostly considers it as food. There is also a type of shungiku which bears ligulate flowers with white outer rims.

Further, there is Hanawa giku (Glebionis carinata) which resembles shingiku, and is a variety cultivated for ornamental purpose in Europe and the United States. However, this plant is poisonous and cannot be consumed.

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