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Tong Ho (Chrysanthemum coronarium )

Other names: Edible Chrysanthemum, Garland Chrysanthemum, Crown daisy, Shingiku, Tong Hao, Tung Ho, Tang Ho, Chong Ho, Kor Tongho, Tong Ho Choy, Tong Hao Cai, Thung Ho, Shunigku, Kikuna, Tan O, Cai Cui, Ssukgat, Chrysanthemum Greens, Cooking Chrysanthemum, Chop Suey Greens, Khee kwai, Gul-chini.

 

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 former.

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.

Culture: 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 climates. The 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 sprayed.

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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