Ashitaba has been used for centuries for many conditions and is known as the ‘longevity herb.’ For that reason and many others, I eat some leaves every day. I just buy the plants and keep them in pots outside, but I also like Sun Potion’s Organic Ashitaba powder, which was pretty pricey on Amazon, but there are other brands for less. Believe it or not, I found it for much less money on Thrive.com. You can buy organic plants and seeds on Strictly Medicinal Seeds.
Why should we care about ashitaba? Ashitaba shows evidence of exhibiting anti-inflammatory (Ai) and antioxidant (Ao) effects, both great anti-aging benefits. This herb is native to Japan and though used primarily in Asia both in the diet and as a dietary supplement, is gaining popularity in the U.S. because of its promising health effects.
Ashitaba leaves are consumed within the diet as food or juiced in some cultures but can also be used in powdered form or topically. I also make tea from the fresh leaves or powder. The health benefit of ashitaba is thought to be associated with vitamin and mineral levels in the plant including B vitamins, beta-carotene, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and potassium along with a variety of antioxidants.
There is also some evidence that ashitaba is effective for gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) and peptic ulcers because of its ability to reduce stomach secretions. Ashitaba has also been shown to exhibit anti-cancer effects, and to aid in cardiovascular health. Read more about the benefits of ashitaba from our FoodTrients nutritionist, Ginger Hultin.
Potato salad is a great way to showcase ashitaba leaves. These healthful leaves, grown in Japan and Southeast Asia, are often dried, ground and taken as a dietary supplement. I grow my own ashitaba plants here in Southern California and I like to eat them fresh. The dark green leaves taste like spinach or sweet kale. But if you can’t find fresh ashitaba leaves, this potato salad is delicious without them.
I like to use fingerling potatoes, but you can use small white new potatoes or Yukon gold potatoes instead. I prefer the French haricot vert variety of green bean, but American snap beans or pole beans will work as well. Apples give this salad a sweet dimension. I chose Fuji apples for their firm flesh, but almost any variety will do.
ASHITABA POTATO SALAD
1½ lbs. fingerling potatoes
1 cup green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
½ cup cubed Fuji apple, skin on
¼ cup diced celery
½ cup young ashitaba leaves, torn into small pieces, plus extra for garnish
1 cup Watercress Dressing (see below)
Yields 2 cups
Use this on just about any green leafy salad with fresh vegetables. For a thinner dressing, use regular or low fat yogurt. Marinated or flavored, crumbled feta cheese might be fun to use in this recipe. Other nice additions would be ¼ tsp. of crushed garlic and/or ⅛ cup of red onion.
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup whole watercress leaves, without stems
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
½ tsp. salt or salt substitute
Dash of black or white pepper
Place all the ingredients in a blender and whirl together for about 30 seconds or until the watercress leaves are finely chopped.