Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Elusive Flower - My Search for the Chrysanthemum Tea Plant

chrysanthemum flower tea
chrysanthemum tea flowers

I have an obsession. I'm convinced that most gardeners eventually develop at least one. Mine just so happens to involve a particular flower, which is somewhat ironic considering that I see myself as more of a vegetable gardener. Not that I don't find flowers compelling and beautiful. I like to compare flower gardeners and vegetable gardeners to gay men and lesbians. Yeah we belong to the same community, but at the end of the day, we're chasing after different things. I'll admit that unless I can consume the plant somehow, I'm generally not too interested in growing it. I'll need a flower enthusiast to set me straight one of these days (no pun intended).

chrysanthemum flower team 2
Chrysanthemum tea is customarily sweetened with rock sugar.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. I LOVE to drink Chinese chrysanthemum tea. Like chamomile, the best chrysanthemum tea is brewed using whole flowers. I especially enjoy the variety that is white or very pale yellow in color. My friend Winnie informed me that the kind I like is called Ju hua and has the botanical name chrysanthemum morifolium. For those of you who have never tried this tea, I would describe the taste as mild, sweet, nutty (like sunflower seeds) and earthy. Chrysanthemum tea is also known to have many medicinal qualities. In addition to acne and influenza (which is why it is sometimes referred to as a "cooling" herb), it was also used as a holistic treatment for circulatory disorders like varicose veins. Finally, the Chinese believe that chrysanthemum tea helps to "clear" the eyes and cleanse the liver.

chrysanthemum tea
Needless to say, I would give anything to be able to grow my own chrysanthemum tea plants and dry my own flowers. Hence the dilemma. I cannot find a source for seeds or transplants ANYWHERE. There are numerous online nurseries that sell chrysanthemum plants, yet none of them appear to be the variety that I'm looking for. Also, all of the seed companies I've come across only carry edible chrysanthemum greens, which is a whole different thing . As a result, I have no choice but to release this post into cyberspace and hope for the slight chance that someone will read this and tell me how I can get a hold of a few chrysanthemum tea plants or seeds (that is, without having to visit a tea farm in China).

Update: Believe it or not...and despite my overwhelming skepticism, someone out there has found a source for the elusive chrysanthemum tea plant. My lovely friend Michelle of From Seed to Table fame came through big time and her search ultimately led us here. I contacted the company and they confirmed that they have exactly what I'm looking for. The original stock was actually collected from a tea farm in Guangxi, China.

I placed an order for 4 rooted cuttings. Unfortunately, I will have to wait until the weather warms up a bit before they can be shipped safely. A minor obstacle at the end of this 2-year journey.

A MILLION THANKS MICHELLE! I surrender to the power of online social networking.

38 comments:

  1. You are so funny...you've got me laughing...

    I don't know anything about these flowers...I wish I did. Now you've got ME wanting to grow them, too! I have been reading a lot about herbal remedies...home remedies...natural remedies...and a lot about bees and honey. Talk about medicinal...wow. Have you ever thought of keeping bees? It's next on my list...I'm waiting for the house on acreage tho...I think I'm pushing it as it is having chickens in town!

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  2. My favorite tea is rose hip tea. It takes a special sort of rose to grow for this tea. I would love to have this rose in my garden but I just can’t find anywhere to buy it. I think its one of those wild roses... its called dog rose.

    Good luck in finding your Chrysanthemum Tea Plant!

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  3. I'll keep looking for it, I want to grow it too.

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  4. No idea on the flower you seek - but it sure makes a beautiful glass of tea! I hope your quest is successful.

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  5. I've been lurking for quite a while but this post got me looking for these crazy seeds and I've been all over the Canadian seed sites. I eventually ended up at Bountiful Gardens in California and I think they might have what you're looking for: http://www.bountifulgardens.org/prodinfo.asp?number=HSH-8400

    Hope that is the right variety and good luck!

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  6. http://www.unionagway.com/Chrysanthemum-Detail.htm

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  7. It is pretty easy to develop obsessions as a gardener. I know I do all the time. This year it seems to be dried beans and paste tomatoes or things I can eat in the winter. I do grow flowers, but they aren't my passion. I tend to grow ones that are either really easy or ones that help the beneficials. I surround my vegetable garden with flowers, but the vegetable garden is my true love.

    BTW if the links you were given don't work, email me. When the Seed Savers Yearbook comes in I can see if anyone has it.

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  8. I love your analogy of flower gardeners vs vegetable gardeners. I have several flower gardens around my yard and they are pretty much neglected. Maybe I should convert them to vegetable gardens? I do love flowers, but don’t like having to care for them as much.

    Good luck in your chrysanthemum tea plant search. I hope one of your readers can help lead you to them.

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  9. Hilarious comparison of the types of gardeners, but you are spot on! Most of the Master Gardeners in the program here are all about their flowers, and flower arranging. There are very few of us (I was the only one in my class!) that are interested in veggie gardening. I share your thoughts about the end result being edible, and don't much understand growing ooodles of stuff that I can't eat after all the work that goes into it! On the other hand, I am trying at least to incorporate a few flowers and use the French Potager method. That being said... I noticed even my "pretty" stuff is useful, i.e. herbs, flowers grown for bees and butterflies, Artichoke which will be a beautiful plant, and if I'm lucky, will be edible too! Good luck in your tea search, looking forward to hearing about it if you find some!

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  10. I'm most certainly a veggie gardener, but am branching out to flowers this year as well. Usually the only flowers you'll find at my house are bulbs, which are easy and get planted once and then forgotten about. My kids decided we needed more flowers for the bees this year, which works for this veggie gardener. So think of it like that. You aren't crossing over to the darkside, you're just helping your own side using their powers.

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  11. Michelle - I would love to keep bees. Unfortunately, my better half is deathly afraid of them.

    vrtlarica - Rose hip is definitely a tea that I would be interested in growing as well. See how this obsession grows?

    Mac - thanks! Two words: Tea Farm!

    kitsapFG - I hope so too. Though the thought of visiting a chrysanthemum tea farm in China is growing on me.

    Lauren - thanks for the link! Unfortunately, I think the product description is wrong. Shungiku is the edible chrysanthemum variety that is primarily used for greens.

    Anonymous - Thanks for the link! Who know that there was such variation under one botanical name. "Wilma" looks promising but I don't think any of these are it. I'm beginning to think that there aren't any tea farmers in the US that grow chrysanthemums.

    Daphne - Thanks! The flowers I'm growing this year are mostly beneficials as well. It would be awesome if it was listed in the yearbook.

    GrafixMuse - haha...maybe you should! I don't want to come across as a flower hater...I'm sure they will seduce me one of these days.

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  12. Erin - where you known as the veggie lady in your class? haha. There's just something so very humble about growing veggies. Flower gardening is a bit more romantic in my opinion. But I think that's why I also love the European style potagers. They are both practical and aesthetically pleasing.

    The Mom - Plant them and leave them flowers are definitely more up my ally. Nothing better than a low maintenance flower.

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  13. I was a die-hard flower girl before I started my veggie patch last year. I am now a changed gardener ! And although I will always love my pretties, I don't think I could ever go back to just flowers. Edimental is my new motto ! (See Ottawa Gardener's latest post).

    Have you considered taking seeds from the ones you have there ?

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  14. Hi Miss M - unfortunately, the flowers are picked will before the seeds mature so there are no viable seeds to be had. :(

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  15. I wanted to share some sunshine with you.
    http://frugalisgreenajourney.blogspot.com/2010/02/little-bit-of-sunshine-and-some-snow.html

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  16. Thomas, Where do you buy your flower to make the tea you are drinking....can they order or get seeds for you? I am sure you have already thought of that....
    Emily in So. TX

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  17. THM - Thanks for the award! It is much appreciated.

    Hi Emily - I buy my tea at an Asian supermarket chain near Boston. I don't think customer services is very high on their list of priorities. haha. Also, I don't think there is a market for these seeds outside of the Far East. Watch, one day I'll just stumble across a display of chrysanthemum tea plants for sale.

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  18. Thomas,
    My friend pf informed me the variety we are looking for has "Ramat" at the end, the correct botanical name should look like this:
    "Chrysanthemum morifolium Ramat"

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  19. Well, Thomas....this year I am becoming a lesbian (don't tell Mr H). Yep, I've not grown many flowers in my lifetime. I'm an "if you can't eat it, why grow it?" type of gal. But I've decided to wander over to the dark side and add a few flowers amongst my veggies. Who knows, it may become addictive!

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  20. Thomas:
    If you have the dried flower to make the tea and you can add the GOJi( Wolfberry)into the tea-it is really better for the eye. I am looking for this flower for long time also. Good luck to you also.

    I like your blog and give me some idea about the hoop house-your hoop house is more like cold frame.
    Thanks!

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  21. I think I found what you're looking for! First let me tell you how I found it. Mother Earth News has a search function where you can search more than 500 mail order seed and plant companies here:http://www.motherearthnews.com/Find-Seeds-Plants.aspx

    I use it frequently when I'm looking for something specific. So a search there for Ju hua came up with a few results. None of them had seeds but one has live plants.

    http://companionplants.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=109&osCsid=eb7cc28c25f7955d31a170b195064744

    I hope this is what you're looking for.

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  22. Well, I guess we can forget about the seeds, I google
    (chrysanthemum morifolium ramat var sinense) and found a Chinese website that says this chrysanthemum does not set seeds, propagate by stem cutting or root division only.
    I'm convinced if we look hard enough someone in the states have this "daisy like" edible flower plant.

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  23. MICHELLE!!!!!! I think you found it!!!!!! I will contact the company to confirm! We should host these kinds of treasure hunts more often. I've had a blast reading everyone's responses. I love the fact that there are folks out there as obsessed as I am.

    Hopefully, this lead will pan out.

    Gran - You would make an AWESOME lesbian. Haha. I nominate you to start start Flower Harvest Tuedays.

    pf - I've seen chrysanthemum tea with goji berries but have never tried it. Thanks for the suggestion. I will have to give it a go. Take a look at the hoop house tag on my sidebar. You can find the post I wrote last fall on how I built them.

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  24. Mac - We'll have a little tea farm in no time! Haha.

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  25. Wow - I'm so happy it was resolved by the time I read your post, otherwise I would have felt compelled to go sleuthing. But it's done! Excellent. Count me in, I want some, too

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  26. We are now all waiting at the edges of our seats. It sounds like we all want to get some. I am just getting through 2 blood clots in my leg and think I need to start drinking this tea!

    When you find the source of seeds, you best order them first before you post a link - I think there is going to be a chrysanthemum "rush" out there.

    Fun stuff.
    Emily in So. TX

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  27. Hi Thomas - I'm glad you've now got a source for your chrysanthemum tea plant! I too enjoy a nice cup of chrysanthemum tea ...and jasmine tea!
    You made me chuckle with today's post - just what I needed to lift my spirits after a dose of flu. I'm off to make a cup of tea!

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  28. I am only recently getting into tea thanks to a gifting of honey from a friend and her bees in PA. I put it in my earl grey with milk...so good. But after all of this I think I need to try some chrysanthemum tea. And...I'm thinking you might have a little market going here...maybe you could sell the flowers at farmer's markets...I can't believe they were so hard to find.

    And...Annies' Granny...your comment made me laugh...for like 5 minutes...so funny! My husband's grandfather said "growing flowers is a waste of dirt...if you can't eat it, why grow it?" That very next summer I began growing vegetables and haven't looked back!

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  29. Yay for the Internetz! It's like NY NY - if you can't get it there you can't get it anywhere! LOL

    Those mums look beautiful steeping!

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  30. Thomas..I am a tea lover and I have never seen this..
    I would love to try it....


    sounds wonderful...

    always love visiting, my friend

    kary

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  31. Hello there! I'm consider myself both a flower and vegetable gardener. Although until this post, I have not thought about drinking the flower! Interesting thought. I wonder if I can make tea out of all mums flowers. Hmmmmm

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  32. Hmmmmm ... I should try this tea, as I'm still a little off balance from a nasty case of hepatitis a.

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  33. It seems that though typically prepared at home, chrysanthemum tea is also available as a beverage in many Asian restaurants (particularly Chinese ones), and is also available from various drinks outlets in East Asia as well as Asian grocery stores outside Asia in canned or packed form.

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  34. Thank you so much! I too was in a quest for this very item. My AMAZING acupuncturist, Elen Lauper, suggested this for its health virtues. They serve it @ Moa's Kitchen for any LA'ers out there.

    Now, finally got a home to grow a garden. Like you, am mainly interested in growing things I can eat. Thank goodness I'm vegetarian or I'd be shoveling a lot more than dirt.:-D I prefer heirloom and organic seeds/bulbs. I have contacted the vendor and hope to think of you in the beautiful state of VT when I sip my first cup. Wishing you and yours a bountiful harvest and thx again for your helpful post!

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  35. I stumbled into your blog by accident and with desperation!
    I was looking for this for so long.
    Bought so many seeds that claimed to be this particular strain...
    Thank you for sharing and keep this blog alive...
    This has made my day so bright and me so happy..

    Happy New Year 2015!! ;)

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  36. I too have had an obsession with getting this plant, after drinking the Tea in Hong Kong. My plant friend in Hong Kong mailed me some seeds recently that im trying out, but im pretty sure the seeds isn't either viable or the same plant as they are hybrids and they usually make the plants from cuttings. I need to find me some cuttings instead i guess - from a european source :-) a bit hard to find, it seems.

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  37. Hi
    I also stumbled across this because I'm on the same search!
    Along with a couple of others...
    I'm in the uk.
    Sam

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  38. Check out Amazon title 500 yellow chrysanthemum morifolium seed

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