20170803A Wasabi Select Seeds
‘Wasabi’ coleus. Photo: Select Seeds

The coleus sold under the name ‘Wasabi’ (Coleus scutellarioides ‘Wasabi’) is a horticultural variety (cultivar) known for the light-green coloring of its foliage, reminiscent of color of wasabi, a very pungent condiment paste used in Japanese cuisine and derived from the plant Eutrema japonicum. The name in no way indicates the taste of the plant, any more than ‘Chocolate Mint’ coleus, with chocolate-brown leaves edged in green, is supposed to suggest it tastes chocolate … or like mint. These are strictly descriptive names.

20170803B Muller Seeds
‘Chocolate Mint’ coleus tastes nothing like chocolate mint. Photo: Muller Seeds

Note that coleus plants are not considered to be poisonous to humans, although they contain some slightly toxic compounds, such as coleonol (forskolin), a diterpene, that, on very rare occasions, can cause negative skin irritations in individuals with sensitive skin if they are in contact with the plant’s sap. Those compounds are not concentrated enough for the plant to be poisonous when eaten (remember the saying “the dose makes the poison”).

Coleus, however, does contain essential oils that are toxic to dogs and cats and can cause negative reactions if they eat the plant: vomiting, diarrhea, etc.

The names of cultivars of ornamental plants are generally chosen to make the plant more appealing to gardeners and, when not honorific or purely fanciful, tend to describe the color of the plant or its flower, its perfume, its habit, etc. They almost never have any real link with their taste.

20170803C Leonora (Ellie) Enking, Flickr
Vanilla Strawberry hydrangeas sound delicious, but isn’t edible either. Photo: Leonora (Ellie) Enking, Flickr

I wouldn’t recommend you chew on the flowers of Vanilla Strawberry hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Renhy’) either: I’m sure you’ll find their taste very ordinary!20170803A Wasabi Select Seeds

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

1 comment on “Is Wasabi Coleus Edible?

  1. Pingback: Wednesday Weed – Coleus | Bug Woman – Adventures in London

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