Angelica keiskei was once a popular medicinal herb in Singapore. From afar, I think it looks like a enlarged version of the flat leaf parsley plant (Petroselinum neapolitanum). In fact, do not be surprised to know that both plants are members of the Apiaceae (Umbelliferae) family. Common vegetables such as the carrot, celery and dill are also members of this family.
This medicinal herb is often sold singly in pots. It grows as a rosetted plant with a height of about 20 to 30 cm tall. Its large, much divided leaves confers a rather lush look to the entire plant. From my observation, Angelica keiskei seems to prefer to grow in a semi-shaded and sheltered location in Singapore’s hot and humid tropical climate. It doesn’t seem to be able to take our heavy, torrential rains that come down from the skies during certain times of the year here.
Outdoors, try growing Angelica keiskei in a shaded spot that is kept moist at all times. When exposed to excessive direct sunshine, this plant will wilt and turn into a sickly shade of yellow. It needs to be kept moist at all times and hence never allow the soil to dry out. Grow it in moist, fertile soil that is also free-draining.
Angelica keiskei makes a good and attractive houseplant for highrise gardeners. It does well if placed on a bright windowsill that receives filtered or reflected sunshine for at least 4 hours daily. Try to protect it from excessive wind that can dry the plant out.
Recently, I saw some specimens that are in flower on sale in a local nursery for the first time. The much branched flower spike was about 1 m tall and held numerous clusters of small white flowers. Botanically, this particular arrangement of flowers is called an umbel. Some of the flowers have even started to turn into fruits!
Native to East Asia to Japan, Angelica keiskei is known via its Japanese name ‘Ashitaba’. Locally in Singapore, people here call it ‘明日叶’ (ming ri ye) which translates into ”Tomorrow Leaf’, which refers to the ability to regenerate a new leaf soon after one has been harvested. Don’t expect it to put forth a new leaf as soon as the day after! It is not exactly a very fast grower, at least here in Singapore! If you are a fan of this plant, you probably have to have a dozen of pots to satisfy your needs!
The leaves are consumed like a vegetable either in the raw form or cooked by lightly blanching it. When cut, the aerial parts of this plant exude a yellow sap which is found to be an abundant source of furocoumarins and a range of polyphenols. These are believed to possess health-enhancing and anti-cancer properties. However, it is reported that the consumption of Angelica keiskei can lead to skin sensitivity to sunlight and may cause dermatitis in some individuals. Like many members of the Apiaceae family, Angelica keiskei also features a tap root underground that is short and thick. It is also edible and is served either in the cooked or pickled form.