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Chinese Toon leaves range in color from a dark green, crimson, to deep purple depending on the variety. The branches produce five to ten pairs of long leaflets which are without lobes or serrated edges. The leaves also offer a slight onion-like aroma when fresh, and impart a bolder onion flavor when cooked. Chinese Toon leaves are best when consumed young and tender, however they still must be boiled or blanched before consumption. Stir-fried Chinese Toon leaves combined with eggs is one of the most common culinary applications.
Chinese Toon leaves are available year-round, but are said to taste best in the springtime, when the leaves are the most tender.
Chinese Toon leaves are botanically classified as Toona sinensis within the Meliaceae family. The plant is also known as Chinese Toon shoot, Chinese cedar, Chinese mahogany, and Red Toon. These leaves can also be grown as a micro-vegetable, where the shoots and tender young leaves resemble a young tomato plant. Chinese Toon leaves are native to northern and eastern China. Botanists have been aware of the plant since the mid 1700s, but believed it was introduced into Europe in the late 1860s.
The toon leaf is a good source of antioxidants. They contain Beta-carotene, vitamin E, riboflavin, folic acid: low; ascorbic acid, calcium, iron and protein.
Stir fries, pickles, dumpling fillings.
The toon leaf is most prized in the spring, which is when the leaves first appear. The Mandarin name of "xiangchun" means "fragrance of spring", and to the Chinese people, the appearance of the toon leaf buds herald the breaking of long, hard winters. It is said to have been eaten since the Han Dynasty, when it was favoured by high-ranking officials and wealthy families. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the toon leaf is used to lower blood sugar and in is said to help defend the body against oxygen loss. They are also said to ward against women's fertility problems.
Widely cultivated in China, which is the only country to use the toon leaf as a vegetable.