What is it?
The Chrysanthemum flower is the symbol of the Imperial family and also represents longevity. It is considered the flower of autumn as it starts blooming in September. There are a range of edible Chrysanthemum flowers available in Japan. Each variety of Chrysanthemum has a unique taste.
How can it be eaten?
The blossoms can be boiled to make an aromatic, herbal drink known as 'kiku-cha' (Chrysanthemum tea). The whole flower is used to garnish sashimi and sushi dishes and can also be made into tempura.
The petals are added to soups, salads and stir-fries so one can enjoy the beautiful presentation and delicious aroma that the blossoms bring to the dish. The petals are only used since the flower base is usually bitter. The petals should be blanched before they are added to salads. Chrysanthemum petals can also be blanched briefly in lightly vinegared water and drained to make a tasty side dish.
In Japan, the seasonal festival 'Chōyo no sekku' also known as, 'kiku no sekku' (Chrysanthemum Festival) is celebrated on September 9th. It is tradition to drink sake laced with petals of the Chrysanthemum and to pray for good health and longevity. There is a custom of exhibiting and viewing Chrysanthemum flowers around this time of year.