Mushroom herb – characteristics, cultivation and use

mushroom herb leaves
mushroom herb leaves ©blu-blumen.de

The mushroom herb is not just an excellent herb, but with its mushroom-like taste it is an enrichment for many dishes. Mushroom herb belongs to the acanthads and is at present still a rarity, it can be however quite simply planted in the garden or on the balcony. For lovers of mushroom dishes, the exotic spice plant is a must worth trying.

Profile of mushroom herb plant:

Scientific name: Rungia klossii

Plant family: acanthus family (Acanthaceae)

Other names: mushroom acanthus

Sowing time / Planting time: April – June

Flowering period: September – January

Harvest time: all year

Useful plant parts: shoot tips

Location: sunny

Soil quality: nutrient-rich and slightly moist soils

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: smallpox, insect bites

Use as aromatic herb: soups, stews, sauces, sandwiches, stir-fries

Plant characteristics and classification of mushroom herb

Origin of the mushroom herb

The area of origin of mushroom herb is in Papua New Guinea. There, the plant grows mainly in the mountainous areas at altitudes between 1,000 and 2,000 meters (3,280 and 6,560 ft). The plant is used there to the humid-tropical climate. Since the herb is quite tolerant in the choice of the location, the plant can be found today in many other Southeast Asian countries.

Systematics of mushroom herb (Rungia klossii)

Mushroom herb (Rungia klossii) is a representative of the acanthus family, a plant family that is often found in the tropical and subtropical zones of the earth. Important well-known representatives of this family are for example the bear’s breeches or the black-eyed Susan.

The genus Rungia is quite rich in species. Currently, about 70 species are known, all of which are limited to the relatively narrow distribution area in Papua New Guinea and partly Australia.

Look and characteristics of the mushroom herb

Plant

The perennial mushroom herb reaches stature heights between 50 and 80 cm (20 and 32 in). In its area of origin, the plant is considered ground covering. The spice herb grows relatively slowly. It has a creeping rhizome.

Leaves

The leaves of are up to 8 cm long (3.2 in) and are usually strikingly shiny and dark green colored. Characteristic is the yellow coloring of the main leaf vein in the middle of the leaf.

Flowering

A visual highlight are the beautiful blue to violet-colored flowers of the mushroom herb, which interestingly come to light between late September to mid-January. The hermaphrodite flowers reach a length between 2 and 3 cm (0.8 to 1.2 in). The flower shape is visually reminiscent of large lip flowers.

Ripening

After flowering, mushroom herb forms so-called schizocarps (fruits), each containing only a few seeds.

Mushroom – cultivation and care

Location

Although mushroom herb is at home in the tropics, it can be cultivated relatively easily. The herb has a fairly high tolerance in terms of location. Optimal are sunny locations.

Soil

The plant prefers nutrient-rich, slightly moist soils that have a pH below 6.7. Half-shady locations and slightly sandy soils are also tolerated. Very calcareous soils are to be avoided, as this limits the nutrient uptake of the plant so much that it would be absorbed.

Cultivating

Mushroom herb should best be cultivated in a plant pot or planter. Growing in the garden is possible, but winter temperatures would kill the plant. The flowering time of the mushroom also takes place in the winter months.

Sowing

Cultivation of mushroom herb seed is possible, but difficult to accomplish. This is because the seeds are rarely offered. More comfortable and easier is the purchase of fresh mushroom plants, which can then be transferred to the appropriate planters. If seeds are available, the time between mid-April to early July is optimal. Since the plant grows quite bushy, a distance of at least 30 cm (12 in) to the next plant should be kept when sowing.

Propagation

The easiest way for propagation of mushroom herb is by cuttings. For this purpose, up to 25 cm (10 in) long shoots are cut off and planted deep in potting soil, because at the leaf nodes form the new roots. To prevent rot, however, the lower leaves of the shoots should be removed.

Watering

Probably the most important part of the regular care is to make sure that mushroom herb is always supplied with water. Smaller periods of drought may the plant survive, but should be avoided if possible. The soil should always be slightly moist. If the surface has dried, the plant should be watered accordingly. It should be noted, however, that the plant is not over-supplied with water. Waterlogging would damage the root system. Improved water availability and storage can be achieved by incorporating aggregates such as expanded clay or perlite into the substrate.

Fertilizing

Since the mushroom grows mostly in pots or tubs, the plant should be fertilized at regular intervals of about 5 to 8 weeks.

Wintering

Mushroom tolerates no or very little frost and is therefore not hardy. The plant needs a frost-free, but not too warm location in winter time. The plant thrives optimally at a temperature between 12 and 17 ° C (54 and 63 ° F). If the plant is wintering at cooler temperatures, it will lose its leaves, which in the spring will shoot again.

Harvesting

The approx. 10 cm long shoot tips of the plant are harvested – regular harvesting can therefore replace annoying cutting measures. However, the aromatic-rich shoots can be stored only a few days, so mushroom herb should always be used fresh.

a mushroom herb plant
a mushroom herb plant ©blu-blumen.de

Mushroom herb and its use

Mushroom herb as a kitchen herb

The mushroom herb is considered as a quite tasty spice herb. The aroma is reminiscent of fresh mushrooms.

Only the leaves of the plant are used. These should only be consumed fresh. Dried leaves almost lose their full flavor because the flavor-bearing ingredients are relatively unstable.

The leaves can be used in many ways for food, wherever a fine and subtle mushroom flavor is desired. Its leaves are ideal for seasoning soups, stews, sauces, stir-fries and salads. The cabbage is also suitable for breads and toasts. For example, breads with butter or a relatively neutral cream cheese are recommended.

The herb can be boiled, which makes its flavor even more intense. If you spice up soups, meat or other stir-fries, the herb should not be added until half of the cooking time is over.

Mushroom herb is not only a tasty herb, it also provides many valuable minerals. In addition to vitamins A and C, the leaves contain proteins, calcium, iron and beta-carotene.

Mushroom herb as a medicinal herb

The mushroom herb currently does not appear as a medicinal herb in appearance. The plant has received little scientific attention so far, which is why little is known about the actual effect of the ingredients contained in the plant as well as the active ingredients.

Some species of the genus Rungia are used in Southeast Asia as a supportive therapy for smallpox. In addition, some species are used for cooling insect bites or as a diuretic. Medically, both the leaves and the roots are of importance.

Disclaimer:

Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Buy mushroom herb – what should be considered?

The mushroom herb has not been known for too long in Europe as a spice herb. There are therefore very few products that are available for purchase. For example, neither extracts, oils or seeds can be found.

Fresh plants or seedlings are available at many online retailers and in some plant centers. There are no likelihood of confusion or similar sounding names. The plants should be observed after unpleasant fellows such as white flies or lice, which like to stay on the underside of the leaves. The price per plant is about 2.50 to 8 EUR/$.

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