Tong Ho (chrysanthemum coronarium) is part of the Daisy family (Compositae). This is an annual herb, which grows to 30 cm high, and can reach over 60 cm when flowering. It originated in the Mediterranean area, spreading throughout Europe and into Africa and Asia. It is very popular as a green vegetable in Japan, China and Taiwan.
The sales of Tong Ho have increased in the last 20 years due to the increasing population of Vietnamese in London.
The Tong Ho's unique chrysanthemum taste makes it a popular ingredient for the Chinese winter hot pot fondue. This fondue is basically the use of a stock instead of cheese. Tong Ho is also used to compliment beef, lamb and other meat stews.
The largest leaves are about 13 cm long and 4 cm wide, but most are smaller than this. The flowers generally look like a daisy, and are 3-6 cm in diameter. The petals can vary in colour between white, yellow and orange, and are often a pale creamy yellow on the outer edge, but towards the centre a deeper yellow. The Tong Ho leaves are bluntly lobed, uniformly green, and rather rough (not shiny smooth).
Tong Ho can be adapted to cool-temperate climates. It grows poorly at temperatures exceeding above 25C. It is mainly grown in autumn, winter and early spring when light levels are low. Ideally Tong Ho should be grown in an open situation in the cooler months of the year. In the open Tong Ho can withstand light frosts, and mild frost under cover. The plants will continue flowering in autumn until cut back by frost. Tong Ho do not perform well under wet conditions. In Japan to protect them from heavy rain, they are commonly grown under a protective netting or plastic cover film.
OTHER TONG HO NAMES
Tung Ho or Chong Ho (Cantonese), Tong Hau, Chrysanthemum Greens, Garland Chyrsanthemum, Tung hao or Hao zi gan (Mandarin), and in Japanese Shungiku (spring chrysanthemum), Shingiku or Kikuna.
HOW TO COOK TONG HO
The Chinese sometimes stir-fry Tong Ho as a vegetable on its own. The Cantonese generally use it only in hotpots or soup. A quick version of a Chinese hotpot is to simply flavour boiling water with shreds of lean pork or chicken, add the Tong Ho and then season with light soy sauce, and serve.
Alternatively, young Tong Ho leaves can be used raw in salads, mixed with other leafy greens or with tomatoes, bean sprouts and served with sesame oil dressing.