Growing up, my parents were avid gardeners. As I've written about in the past, they used to be farmers in Vietnam, and gardening and farming go hand-in-hand. When we moved to the United States, our first house was one with ample land. But we rented, and although our landlord was one of the nicest men, my parents didn't feel comfortable tearing up the nice grass for their gardening excursions. Instead, they chose a small patch of land to garden on. But due to the space and weather constraints, they decided against growing any vegetables. Instead, they decided to grow traditional Vietnamese mints and herbs.
Today, I want to take time and pay tribute to my favorite herb of all: Houttuynia Cordata or giấp cá in Vietnamese.
Many Americans use this herb as ground cover, but any Vietnamese gardener who grows this will use as part of their diet, their cuisine. It has a distinct smell and a very distinct flavor. Cam can't stand the smell of it, and he gags if I try to make him eat it. Most mints have a strong flavor, but this one isn't just strong. It has a somewhat sour, fishy flavor. I love the tangy flavor, and I will eat this raw with my rice. I'll eat like it's lettuce or something. I just love it.
My parents sell giấp cá to some of the Asian grocery stores in town. Because of its smell, you won't ever find it in any of the regular grocery stores. But despite this, this plant is so pretty, and the flowers are delicate, white and yellow.
Be warned though, if you plant this in your garden, it will spread. It spreads like crazy. It's not a problem for us because we eat it so quickly that we welcome the growth. I've read that the aldehydes and ketones of the plant are the source of its smell.
The herb is also used often in Chinese and Vietnamese herbal medicine. It has been medically proven to have antibacterial effects. When the plant is dried and brewed, herbal doctors have used it to treat hypertension, pulmonary tuberculosis, colds, constipation, para nasal sinustics, pus removal, as a diuretic, and even allergies.
Even though I've lived in Nashville since I was 7, I have never fallen ill due to allergies. Almost everyone I know has some kind of allergy. I believe that because I've been eating this herb since I was little, its medicial effects have helped me grow into a stronger person.
I think mints and herbs are awesome. I thought I would share.
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