Thursday, September 4, 2008

Tong Ho Choy (Garland Chrysanthemum)

Tong Ho is an edible garland chrysanthemum, is one of the most popular vegetables in Europe and has become very popular recently in Asia too. Oriental love this leafy variety for its unqiue flavor and taste. Plants are very vigorous and are easy to grow. Pick young leaves for the best eating quality, excellent for salad and stir-fry. This unique vegetable has been considered as a healthy vegetable by Oriental, good for eyes and vision care. This broad leaf variety with thick leaves and slightly serrated can grow very well in slightly cool climates. It has a milder flavor than the small serrated leaf variety, but their Chrysanthemum essence does get stronger with maturity.

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.

How to grow
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).

Cooking information
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 offlowering, the leaves and stems become bitter and fibrous. The leaves are usually blanched briefly to soften them and deepen their color, but young leaves can be served raw. Add them to cooked dishes at the last minute, as they become bitter if overcooked.

Nutrition info
Tong Ho is a useful source of potassium, with some vitamin C and dietary fibre