Today we once again feature a photo from the album that Douglas Justice collected while traveling through China this past May. Douglas kindly provided us with the entry as well.
Artemisia vulgaris, or mugwort, is a common weedy species throughout much of the world. And although known for its toxic, nerve poisoning qualities, it was occasionally served as a side dish to our group—the delegates to the Second International Symposium on the Family Magnoliaceae (held in Guangzhou, Guangdong, China)—as an accompaniment to fatty meat dishes, such as goose and pork. When asked the identity of this intensively bitter accompaniment, our Chinese hosts identified it as "chrysanthemum." This is somewhat confusing, as Leucanthemum coronarium is a common constituent of dishes in Cantonese cuisine, whereas there is little mention of the culinary uses of mugwort. The two species were easily distinguished, however: whole, stir-fried stems of garland chrysanthemum were served, tasting of mildly bitter lettuce, while the wormwood was presented pickle-style, and had the overwhelming tang and excruciatingly long medicinal burn of sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata)—that is, to my western North American palate. My research tells me that in a number of cultures wormwood and its relatives are used for stimulating the appetite, correcting "bilious disorders" and expelling worms.