Long ago on the island nation of Japan people discovered a plant with magical properties. If you cut off a leaf in the morning, a new one would take its place by the next day.
And the magic didn't stop there. If you incorporated it into your diet, you would see the many health benefits of antioxidants. It is also attributed with anti-inflammatory, anti-tumorigenic, anti-carcinogenic, anti-microbial, and detoxifying properties.
This magic plant is known as the ashitaba plant. Much of these seemingly magical powers are concentrated in the ashitaba leaves, which are often called "tomorrow leaves."
Nowadays ashitaba is made into tea, noodles, and even ice cream and candies.
However, while ashitaba products are widely available in many countries in Asia, such as its home country of Japan and the neighboring Philippians islands, it is much more difficult to find the ashitaba plant elsewhere in the world.
Many people have turned to online sources in order to get their share of the benefits of the ashitaba leaves. But the best way to take advantage of this plant is to have a constant and fresh supply.
This means growing your own ashitaba plant at home. You already know that the plant grows best in moist, humid environments. You already know that if the leaves turn yellow, the plant is getting too much direct sunlight. You already know to keep the plant out of harsh wind.
But there is one little detail you're still unsure of... how do you actually harvest ashitaba leaves?
There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes time to harvest the leaves. Here we will outline some of the most important tips to harvesting your magic leaves.
Time is everything
One of the most astounding qualities of the ashitaba plant is how quickly the ashitaba leaves grow back. After all, they have more than earned the nickname "tomorrow leaf."
That being said, harvesting the leaves as soon as they regrow is not the best approach to take.
This is because the leaves are not mature immediately after they first grow back. It takes time for the leaves to get all the medicinal properties they are known for.
Typically, it's recommended that mature leaves be harvested once a week. However, it is never a bad idea to give the plant even more time between harvests.
If you find you need ashitaba leaves more frequently than once a week, you might want to consider getting a second plant. That way you can alternate between harvesting the leaves and still optimize the amount of time they have to regenerate, grow, and mature.
How much to harvest from your ashitaba plant
Now that you've patiently waited for your leaves to mature, hold off on harvesting until you know exactly how. The last thing you want is to take a weed wacker to your lovingly nurtured plant.
Just like any other plant, you want to harvest a little at a time. If you take too many leaves from the plant it could affect its ability to make its own food through photosynthesis.
In order to prevent this, it is best to have smaller harvests and cut the leaves correctly.
How to cut you ashitaba leaves
You want to be sure that you are harvesting individual leaves, rather than cutting entire stalks of the plant. This ensures that you will cause the least amount of lasting damage to the plant.
You should also be sure that you are cutting the ashitaba leaves at the base of the leaf's stem, instead of at the base of the leaf itself. By cutting the leaves here, you will be able to harness more nutrients from chalcones which is what gives the ashitaba plant it's anti-inflammatory and other medicinal properties.
You can remove the leaves by pinching the base of the stem or by cutting them off with scissors.
What to do after the harvest
You have several options now that you have properly harvested your ashitaba leaves.
First, you can use the fresh leaves in a variety of methods. Use it as a salad topping or as an addition to your fruit smoothy. If you've been dying to try your hand at ice cream making, add ashitaba leaves to the mix and give your creamy dessert a healthy kick.
Remember to wash the leaves in salt water or blanch them before using the fresh leaves.
However, most people choose to dry the leaves to be used as a herb or tea.
The best way to dry the ashitaba leaves is to bundle them together and hang them upside down. Use about a foot of string to hang the leaves, making sure they are not touching anything else as they dry.
It is best to allow the leaves to hang in a dry place until they are ready. Usually, the best place to hang the leaves is a pantry or other similarly dry room.
And while some people try to dry their leaves in a window, the leaves also need to be kept out of the sunlight as they dry.
Once the leaves have been properly dried, you are ready to make your ashitaba tea. Place the dried leaves in a plastic bag and roll over them with a rolling pin. You can also crush them with a mortar and pestle, but if you opt for this option, be sure not to break the leaves into too small of pieces.
The leaves should be broken into pieces just small enough to be easily scooped. Allow about a tablespoon of the leaves to steep in hot water for several minutes.
And don't forget to make use of the stems in your tea too! Many of the nutrients can be found in the leaf's stem.
Tomorrow leaves are an amazing source of antioxidants and can be used in a variety of ways -- and now that you know how to harvest ashitaba leaves you are well on your way to accessing the best of these health benefits.
If you love the ashitaba plant, don't forget to share the article on Twitter or Facebook and let the rest of the world know about this piece of magic!