The Mitsuba, otherwise known as “Japanese Parsley,” is part of the Umbelliferae (Apiaceae) genus. This family of plants includes fennel, lovage, parsley, dill, and carrots. Mitsuba grows in the wild across east Asia, but it’s not common in the Americas.
The name “Mitsuba” translates to “treefoil” or “Three-Leaf.” The plant bears a similar resemblance to the cilantro and flat-leaf parsley, producing three leaves on each stem.
The Mitsuba grows to heights of up to three feet, with a spread of up to two feet when growing in the wild. However, gardeners may find that the plant only reaches 60% of that size in the veggie patch and less than half that size in containers.
Mitsuba comes to life in the later spring to early summer months, producing tiny lavender or light-pink flowers with a star-shaped design. The plant also produces seeds at the end of the summer, and gardeners can get several harvests per season.
The Japanese Parsley tastes like a blend of coriander, chervil, coriander, and celery leaf. There’s a slightly bitter aftertaste, depending on how much light the plants get while growing. Some gardeners may confuse Mitsuba with the Canadian honewort, but it’s not the same plant.
Mitsuba also goes by the name wild chervil, and it’s suitable for growing in cooler climates on the east coast, with some gardeners growing it as far south as Florida. Mitsuba prefers temperatures under 90°F, but it’s reasonably cold hardy down to 14°F.
The plant dies back in the winter and returns the following spring. The Mitsuba is a self-seeding variety, and you’ll find new seedlings popping up in the late springtime the next year.
As mentioned, Mitsuba goes by many names. They are all names for the same plant, and there’s no difference in the plant structure or genetics between the terms. However, in Japan, there are two primary cultivars of Mitsuba, with slight differences between the two.
- Kansai – This common green variety is a disease and pest-resistant cultivar. It also has culinary use as a microgreen.
- Kanto – This variety is more exclusive and harder to come across. This variety doesn’t grow with any light, producing white stalks that are something of a delicacy in Japan.
How to Grow Mitsuba
Growing Mitsuba is relatively easy, and it’s a good choice for beginner gardeners looking for a forgiving plant for their veggie patch. You can grow Mitsuba in flowerbeds or containers, but they do better in the ground than in pots.
Sun and Soil Requirements
Most herbs love the sun, but the Mitsuba prefers partially shady conditions. The plant likes the early morning sun and then shade throughout the hotter parts of the day. You’ll find Mitsuba on the edge of tree lines in the wild, where it enjoys a balance of sunlight and shade.
Typically, Mitsuba does well in USDA Zones four through nine, but as mentioned, you’ll find it growing as far south as Florida. However, the plant doesn’t like cold conditions, and it starts to turn its leaves if temperatures drop too far.
When the temperatures get above 90F, Mitsuba is likely to start to bolt, and the leaves will turn yellow from overexposure to the sun. Mitsuba is a hungry herb, and it requires plenty of fertilizer and mulching during the growing season for extra nutrients and higher yields.
The soil needs to drain well, but adding amendments like vermiculite and perlite to increase moisture retention in the ground is a good idea in drier climates. Gardeners might find that growing Mitsuba from seed is easier than trying to transplant seedlings they get from the nursery.
The seeds germinate readily, establishing in the ground quickly in the right conditions.
- Brand:Petroselinum crispum var. neapolitanum, Model:Italian Dark Green, Flat Leaf Parsley, I
- Country Of Manufacture:United States, Mpn:Vegetable/Herb/Biennia
- Country/Region Of Manufacture:Italy, Type:Seeds
- Appearance: Japanese parsley has delicate, dark green leaves that resemble flat-leaf parsley or cilantro. The leaves are compound, with three leaflets that are finely serrated. The plant grows in a rosette form and can reach a height of about 12 to 24 inches. It produces small, white or pale green flowers in umbels during the summer months.
- Flavor and Culinary Uses: Japanese parsley has a unique flavor that combines the freshness of parsley with a hint of celery and a touch of bitterness. The leaves are edible and commonly used in Japanese cuisine as a garnish, in salads, soups, and various dishes. Mitsuba adds a refreshing and aromatic element to the dishes it is used in.
- Soil & Light: Japanese parsley is typically grown as an annual or biennial plant. It prefers partial shade to full shade and moist, well-draining soil.
- Sow: It can be started from seeds indoors and transplanted outside once the risk of frost has passed. Sow the seeds in a seed-starting mix, keeping the soil consistently moist until germination. Transplant the seedlings into the garden or containers, spacing them about 6 to 8 inches apart.
- Health Benefits: Japanese parsley is not only appreciated for its culinary uses but also for its potential health benefits. It contains various nutrients, including vitamins A, C, and K, as well as minerals like calcium and potassium.
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Sow your Mitsuba seeds directly into pots or prepared flowerbeds in the early spring after the final frost passes. If you live in USDA Zone 9a, you can start planting in the fall for the best results. Push the seeds around a ¼” deep into the soil, and make sure you make all your soil amendments before planting.
Keep the seeds moist, but don’t overwater. Use a spray bottle or a mist-spray function on your spray gun to prevent overwatering during germination.
If you’re germinating in warm climates, placing a faux-greenhouse covering the seed keeps the seeds moist. Cut the top off a clear plastic 2-Liter bottle and place it over the seedling to create a humid environment and more moisture for the plant.
You also have the option of purchasing pre-made cloches for growing your Mitsuba seedlings from online retailers. After the seedlings reach six to nine inches in height, you can thin them out until the plants are around six to nine inches apart.
The small, tender sprouts of the plant are a great edible microgreen; they taste sweet and delicious in salads. After the growing season starts, you can plant a new crop every six weeks to keep your supply rotating throughout the summer and into the fall.
You can find Mitsuba transplants at nurseries across the United States. However, as mentioned, transplanting seedlings won’t give you the same success rate as growing directly from seed in flowerbeds or containers.
Some grocery stores even sell live Mitsuba roots as vegetables suitable for use in salads. These roots are also ideal for planting and growing in the hands of a skilled gardener.
If you don’t harvest the entire plant in the fall, you can divide the remaining Mitsubas. The plants grow rapidly, especially after dividing.
Just pull the entire plant up and divide it using a sharp knife. Tap away any loose soil from the roots and replant or give the divisions to neighbors or friends.
Mitsuba also grows well in containers. However, since you’re limiting the root space of the plant, you can’t expect it to reach the same size as it does when growing in the wild. Potted Mitsuba typically reaches up to 12 to 16-inches in height, with a spread of around half of that.
When planting in containers, make sure you use high-quality potting soil with plenty of nutrients. Add amendments like perlite and vermiculite to the soil to improve airflow and retain moisture in the soil.
Water the plant well after potting, and make sure the soil drains well. The Mitsuba doesn’t like getting its “feet wet,” and over watering may lead to the development of root rot in the plant.
Caring for Mitsuba
Provided you let the plant establish and give it the right care during the growing season, it’s a cheery plant that keeps producing. Here are a few tips for caring for your Mitsuba.
After the plant establishes roots in the mid-summer, it’s time to give it a bit of a boost with some fertilizer.
Gardeners recommend fish emulsion for the best results with speeding up growth in Mitsuba. Dilute the emulsion to half-strength and apply once every month during the growing season until the start of the fall.
As mentioned, don’t overwater the Mitsuba. The plant enjoys moist soil, but overwatering results in the onset of disease in the roots.
If you’re growing in containers, don’t let the soil dry out between watering. Push your finger an inch into the ground to check if there is moisture. If it’s moist, leave the plant; if it’s dry, give your Mitsuba a watering.
The Mitsuba produces small white flowers in the summer. Deadheading the flowers accelerates the growth of the leaves for food production.
If you don’t pick the flowers, the Mitsuba self-seeds after the flower dies, and new plants start in the beds the following season.
Companion Planting for Mitsuba
The Mitsuba also makes an excellent companion for the following plants and herbs.
- Sweet Cicely
- Bee Balm
- Woodland Strawberry
Pests Affecting Your Mitsuba
Some of the pests and diseases you may encounter when growing Mitsuba include the following.
Slugs and Snails
These annoying, slow-moving critters feed off the small, tender seedlings of the plant. Laying slug and snail pellets around the edges of the plants keeps these pests away from your crop.
When it rains and gets overcast, there’s a chance of powdery mildew infesting your Mitsuba. Ensure you have good spacing between the plants and optimal airflow to prevent mold from settling and growing on your Mitsuba.
Mitsuba can also experience problems with earwig infestations. If you find jagged foliage on your plants, it’s a sign that earwigs are visiting your Mitsuba for a feast. Scrunch up some newspaper and leave it around the plants.
The earwigs move into it overnight, and you can remove them from the garden. If that doesn’t work, dilute some neem oil and spray it over the Mitsuba. The earwigs find the neem disgusting, and they’ll move out of the garden.
When your Mitsuba gets to around eight to ten inches tall, it’s time to harvest the plant. Cut the plant back to soil level, and it will start to grow new stems.