Mitsuba is also known as Japanese parsley, Japanese chervil, and trefoil. This cool-climate, elegant perennial grows wild in Japan and is used extensively in Japanese cooking. It is now cultivated in North America, Australia, and Europe, initially to supply Japanese restaurants but increasingly to sell to herb enthusiasts.
About Taste: Mitsuba has little aroma but a distinctive, restrained, mild, and agreeable taste, showing elements of angelica, chervil, and celery, with something of the astringency of sorrel and a hint of clove.
Parts Used: Leaves and stems.
Buying & Preserving: You may find mitsuba is available in a Japanese or an Asian market. You can buy a plant from a nursery. Leaves keep for 5–6 days if wrapped in a damp paper towel or placed in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator.
Herb Gardening: Mitsuba is a woodland plant and is easy to grow in light shade. It seeds itself readily. In summer mitsuba bears insignificant white flowers above the leaves. Leaves and slender stems are harvested from spring through to fall or winter. Mitsuba isn’t long-lived.
In Japan, mitsuba is used to season soups, simmered dishes (nabemono), and savory custards, in salads, and with fried or vinegared foods. It adds its highly individual, delicate flavor to matsutake no dobinmushi, a dish made only for a couple of weeks when the much-prized pine mushrooms are in season. The mushrooms are simmered in a broth and the mitsuba is added for a few seconds at the end. Small bundles of stems can be tied in a knot below the leaves and fried for tempura. Mitsuba is usually blanched quickly to tenderize the leaves, or added to stir-fried foods at the last moment. Overcooking destroys the flavor of the leaves. The sprouted seedlings are good in salads.
Fresh leaves: Mitsuba means “three leaves” in Japanese, from the three leaflets that make up the leaf. The meaning is echoed in the English name trefoil.
Good with eggs, fish and seafood, poultry, mushrooms, rice, and as a garnish for most vegetables, especially sweet roots such as carrots and parsnips. Combines nicely with chives, basil, marjoram, ginger, lemongrass, lemon balm, sesame.