Mitsuba Japanese Parsley
Improvement status: Cultivated wild material
Seeds per packet: ~50
Germination tested 7/2021: 80%
Life cycle: Perennial
Mitsuba means "three leaves" in Japanese, and that indeed descibes its appearance pretty well. It's also called Japanese Wild Parsley, which pretty well describes its flavor — though some note hints of other tastes, including celery, cilantro, and chervil (all of which are in the same family). I think it tastes mildly of parsley, but mainly just tastes green and fresh. In Japan, mitsuba indeed grows wild. Apparently it can reach two or three feet in height in its natural habitat, which is damp, temperate woodlands (it is cold hardy to USDA zone 5 or even 4). If grown in full sun, the leaves are pretty yellow and the flavor rather bitter. Grown in shade, it is green, mild, and delicious. It can take well to container culture as well.
As a shade-loving perennial vegetable, we think it's a criminally underutilized plant. While it won't get as tall in your garden (1 or 2 feet is normal), it is easy to establish and take care of as it grows. It has pretty little white flowers. The leaves are the most commonly eaten part, and they're usually eaten raw since cooking makes it bitter, but the root is also edible and the seeds can be used for seasoning (think celery seed, but not quite). We've found fresh mitsuba plants, with roots still attached, for sale in a handful of Japanese markets in the US. It is traditionally used as an edible garnish with sushi.
In fact, its association with sushi has led to a funny development: it's said that the little green plastic "leaves" that sometimes separate supermarket sushi from the pickled ginger and wasabi its served with actually is a bastardized form of mitsuba! Since it's not so widely grown, real mitsuba is hard to come by, but sadly plastic is not!
We're excited to play a role in finding a wider audience for this great Japanese perennial vegetable! Our seeds come from the great seed farmers at Restoration Seeds in Oregon.