Aster Scaber
Growing Aster Scaber [Chwinamul, Chamchwi (Korea); Shirayamagiku (Japan); Aster Scaber]

This perennial herb is common in mountain regions of China, Japan. the Russian east, and particularly Korea. It is in cultivation in Korea, where the young, tender stems are considered a welcome harbinger of Spring. The rest of the year, dried shoots are used. It has a unique herbal aroma and a pleasant bitterness.

As the plant gets older, it sends up a hard stalk about 4 feet high, with widely spaced leaves, and a profusion of thin branches at the top with small white aster-like flowers on the tips.   Photo by Dalgial distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Unported.

In Korea this herb is very commonly used in banchan (small side dishes), but also in soups and stews, particularly Bibimbap, one of Korea's signature dishes.

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Dried Aster Scaber

This is one of the few kinds of Korean dried stems where leaves are also included. It has a very nice hetbal aroma.

Buying & Storing:   In North America, this plant is not much available except dried. Find it in Korean markets. Packages of Korean origin are considered superior. Sealed packages, kept away from heat and sunlight, should last over a year.

Yield:   After the boil and cool cycle, and wringing out excess water, 1 ounce makes 3-1/2 ounces. After an overnight soak and wringing out excess water, 1 ounce makes 3-3/4 ounces. That may not seem like much, but texture and color are noticeably improved.

Cooking:   The dried shoots must be rehydrated, and that doesn't happen real fast. Korean cooking maven Maangchi recommends this procedure:

  1. Take dried Aster Scaber out of the package and rinse it.
  2. Put the Dried Shoots in a pot with cold water to cover it by 4 inches. Cover the pot and bring to a boil for 30 minutes.
  3. Set the pot aside, covered, and let cool for 2 or 3 hours.
  4. Drain Shoots and rinse several times to remove dirt and grit.
  5. Return to the pot. Cover with cold water by 4 or 5 inches. Let soak overnight or at least 10 hours.
  6. Rinse and drain. It is now ready for use in recipes.
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