Tong Ho is edible
chrysanthemum or cooking chrysanthemum, which looks very much like the
leafy portion of the ornamental version. A native of Europe and
Northern Asia, it is an old-fashioned garden plant of Europe but today
a vegetable of importance in Asia and Asian communities in western
countries. In China or Chinese
communities, it is called Tong Ho (Choy), Tung Ho (Choy) or Chong Ho (
Choy) in Cantonese, and Tong Hao ( Cai) in Mandarin. In Japanese, it
is named Shigiku, Shungiku or Kikuna, in Korean its name Ssukgat, in
Indian Gul-chini and in Vietnamese Tan or Tan O.
There are mainly two kinds of Hong Ho. One
is Small Leaf Tong Ho, with small and deeply serrated or lobed leaves
and grows faster. Most varieties of this type is slowing bolting.The other is
Broad Leaf Tong Ho, with less serrated, more rounded, thicker and larger
leaves, but usually less cold tolerant and less aromatic than the
Tong Ho is both an herbal medicine and a
cooked vegetable. Leaves and stems have a slightly succulent texture
and a distinct and pleasant but not strong flavor, which becomes stronger with plant age. Leaves
and stems can be eaten raw in salad or cooked like stir-fried or used
in soups. Whether used in salad or cooked, they should be young, fresh
and green, free of yellowing, wilting and the stems should be very
crisp. Cook only briefly (like spinach) whether boiled or stir-fried.
When it is flowering or has sign of flowering, the leaves and stems
become bitter and fibrous.
Tong Ho is an easy and weather-tolerant plant, which prefers coolish
conditions. Some varieties can tolerate even 0 ℃. However the optimal
growth temperature is around 20℃. Below 12℃ and over 29℃, it grows
slowly and poorly. It grows well and vigorously mild and slightly
leaves and stems are ready for harvest one to two months after the
seeds are sown. It can be grown all the year round depending upon
temperature. In Florida, the seeds can be sown in late fall through
spring. In some areas, mulching is recommended.
Direct sowing is a common practice.
However, keeping soil moist is important for good germination. Note:
too much water is no good for germination either. For summer and early
fall sowing, make sure to overshadow to keep them from direct sunlight
and high temperature. Normally you can get good germination about one
week after direct sowing. To commercial growers, direct sowing can be
12 Kg (26 lbs) per acre for row cropping. For gardening, plant density
can be 16x10cm(6 3/10"x4").
In spring sowing, in order to promote and
speed germination, seeds can be soaked in water for about 24 hours,
then keep them at 15-20℃ for germination. They are ready for sowing
when "white tips" appear.
When the plants reach up to 10 cm (4")
tall, more nitrogenous fertilizer is recommended.
In most cases, Tong Ho is disease
tolerant to certain extent in normal condition and no need to use
pesticide and other chemicals. However under humid and high
temperature condition, some chemicals e.g. fungicide has to be
Harvest and storage: Tong Ho like
most Oriental vegetables must be harvested when young. Generally, when
the plant reaches up to 20 cm tall, it can be harvested. You may
harvest the second time if you cut the stem 2-3 cm above the soil and
let it grow for another one or two months ( in most cases, it should
be fertilizer after the first cut). When marketing them or keep in
storage, you are suggested to bunch them.
Low temperature storage and
packaging in plastic bag slows leaf yellowing and prevent water loss.
Better to allow to air-dry before packing if any water on their
surface. Cool to at least 5℃ before packaging. Packaging reduces water
loss and add value through improved presentation.
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Tong Ho varieties