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Trefoil is a perennial herb with a flavour between parsley and celery (some think fresh coriander or angelica.)

It is evergreen in places where the winter is mild, and grows 1 to 3 feet tall (30 cm to 1 metre.) It blossoms with very tiny star-shaped flowers.

The stems and leaves are used as an herb. Per stem, there are three small green leaves, somewhat heart-shaped, up to 3 inches (7 1/2 cm) wide.

Some varieties have green stems, some have white stems.

The leaves will turn yellow in dry, hot weather. Slugs love it, and will attack it like mad.

Trefoil is cultivated in China, Japan and Korea. In Japan, it is even grown year-round in greenhouses. In cultivation, the plant is often blanched, either the whole plant by growing it in darkness, or just the stems, by mounding up earth around them.

In Japan, depending on how it's grown, it's called either Ne-mitsuba, Kiri-mitsuba or Ito-mitsuba.
  • Ito-mitsuba is grown hydroponically, and sold with small sponges around its roots so that it doesn't dry out. It is used as a soup garnish;
  • Ne-mitsuba can be simmered, or used in the small salads the Japanese call "aemono."

    Cooking Tips

    Trefoil can be cooked as a pot herb, or used raw in salads or as a garnish on dishes.

When using Trefoil in cooking, add it at the end of cooking: if cooked for a long time, it can turn bitter.

Language Notes

The Japanese name "mitsuba" means "three leaves."


Angelica; Angostura Bark; Bay Leaf; Borage; Chamomile; Chervil; Chives; Comfrey; Curry Leaves; Dill; Dried Herbs; Epazote; Filé; Folium Indicum; Garlic Greens; Green Garlic; Gruit; Herbes Salées; Herbs; Hops; Jacob's Ladder; Lady's Bedstraw; Lavender; Loroco; Lovage; Marjoram; Mexican Tarragon; Mint; Mugwort Powder; Oregano; Pennywort; Potherbs; Rolling Mincer; Rosemary; Rue; Sachet Bags; Sage; Salad Burnet; Sarsaparilla; Sassafrass; Savoury; Screw Pine Leaves; Shiso Leaves; Silphium; Sorrel; Stevia; Sweet Cicely; Tarragon; Thyme; Trefoil; Valerian; Wild Garlic; Winter Purslane; Wormwood; Yarrow; Yomogi

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Also called:

Japanese Parsley; Mitsuba; White Chervil; Cryptotaenia japonica (Scientific Name); Persil japonais (French); (Japanese); San Ip, San Ye Qin, Ya Er Win (Chinese)


Oulton, Randal. "Trefoil." CooksInfo.com. Published 27 June 2004; revised 26 June 2009. Web. Accessed 05/22/2018. <http://www.cooksinfo.com/trefoil>.

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