Fish Mint Plant, Fish Leave – Houttuynia cordata
Fish mint is one of the perennial edibles I don’t want to miss in my garden. I have it growing as a ground cover in the green house between capsicum, eggplant and tomatoe plants. It also grows in my pond as it is considered as a water loving plant but even though my greenhouse doesn’t sit in water, the Fish mint feels like it belongs there!
The plant comes from China and North-West India and it is used there as a culinary and medicinal plant. The Pharmacogn Rev. (Kumar at al., 2014) ‘describes therapeutic efficacy of the whole plant and its extracts, fractions and isolated compounds in different diseased condition. Among the important pharmacological activities reported includes, anti-mutagenic, anti-cancer, adjuvanticity, anti-obesity, hepatoprotective, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, free radical scavenging, anti-microbial, anti-allergic, anti-leukemic, chronic sinusitis and nasal polyps activities’.
The Japanese name of this plant is Dokudami, which means “poison stop”. When I bought this plant few years ago, the seller told me that it helps when I get an upset stomach and by any kind of poisoning. Leaves can be harvested, dried for tea and stored in an airtight container or jar, in case that you need it. Luckily I never got an upset stomach since I have this plant so I did not have the chance to try it out.
We use it for its culinary properties and I wouldn’t like to miss it anymore, especially for its out of the ordinary taste. It has a very strong fish flavour and it perfectly replaces the fish sauce. Having my own “fish sauce” growing in the garden is very handy! Knowing that the plant I use in the kitchen is grown naturally and on top of that it is so healthy, makes it even more valuable. We use it for all sorts of Asian dishes, like any wok dishes, stir fries, for sea-food soups, kimchi, and some Asian salads like the green pawpaw salad (one of my favorites!). Basically anywhere where I usually would add the fish sauce. Few fresh leaves crushed or thinly cut will do the job. The roots can also be used in cooking and it is good to use them from time to time to keep the plant under control. Otherwise you might end up with an ocean of fish mint.
The Fish mint will also happily grow in any kind of container and can be easily propagated if you want to make someone happy with this amazing plant. Simply take a cutting of the stem and stick it into moist soil or dig out a piece from one of the runners and plant into the new place.
Like with all new plants, make your own research before using it.
Manish Kumar, Satyendra K. Prasad, and S. Hemalatha, 2014, A current update on the phytopharmacological aspects of Houttuynia cordata Thunb, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3931198/