Fish mint is a culinary herb used in many Asian cuisines, and also an invasive weed. Find out what to do with it, whether you want it in your garden or not.
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What is fish mint?
Fish mint (Houttuynia cordata), also known as chameleon plant, lizard tail, and rainbow plant, is a herbaceous perennial plant native to Southeast Asia, China, Korea and Japan.
The has broad heart-shaped leaves with prominent veins, and small white flowers which appear in early summer. The plants grow to around 3 feet in height and width.
It is used in many Asian cuisines as a leafy vegetable or a fresh herb. It has an unusual flavor reminiscent of fish (hence the name).
It is considered an invasive plant because of its ability to regrow from underground rhizomes, which are fragile and break off easily forming new plants when disturbed. This means it can spread easily, and makes it extremely difficult to get rid of.
If you plan on cultivating it, I would recommend planting it in a container to keep it more easily under control. Otherwise you might find it popping up all over your garden.
How to grow fish mint
H. cordata is very easy to grow (some would say too easy!). You can grow it from seeds, but probably the easiest way to grow it is from a cutting or root section from another plant. You can dip it in rooting hormone to help it take root, but it would probably grow fine even if you didn’t.
Fish mint thrives in moist or wet soils, and so should be kept well watered. It does well in either full sun or partial shade.
What is fish mint used for?
Can you eat fish mint?
It is used in particularly Southeast Asian cuisines.
The leaves can be used (sparingly) as a garnish in soups and salads, and also cooked with grilled meats and fish, or in fresh spring rolls.
The roots are also edible. They look somewhat like a ball of spaghetti, and can be eaten raw or cooked, or used as a condiment. The roots are known as zhe’ergen in Chinese cuisine.
Fish mint recipes
Here are some links to recipes that use fish mint:
You can also make tea from the dried leaves of the plant or from the flowers.
Fish mint medicinal uses
Fish mint (H.cordata) has been found to potentially have anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, however research is ongoing.
H.cordata is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat digestive issues, fevers, coughs, insect bites, kidney problems, flu and more.
However, though it should be noted that there is no scientific proof that H.cordata has any use as a medicine, and use of unapproved herbal medicines can be dangerous.
In fact there is a study showing that injecting Houttuynia Cordata can cause severe allergic reactions, so please don’t do that!
How do you get rid of fish mint?
If H. cordata / chameleon plant is growing in the wrong place it can be very difficult to get rid of. Because it propagates via rhizomes it can spread underneath the ground, and grow back even if you have removed all traces of the plant above ground.
Will Roundup kill chameleon plant?
Yes it will, but it is likely to need a few applications. Also, you will need to dig the roots out of the ground. Because it spreads through underground rhizomes, all of these need to be removed or the plant will just grow back again. Expect to go through this process a few times before the plant is eradicated.
Here is an in-depth article on getting rid of chameleon plant.
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