Monday, May 29, 2006

On Eating Wild Plants

Fatsia Bud - タラノメ - Aralia elata (1)
[Angelica Tree Bud - タラノメ - Aralia elata]

Every Spring hordes of people head for the hills to gather various kinds of wild plants to take home and eat. There are enough varieties to fill a book but this year I gathered only three; Angelica tree buds, butterbur sprouts and bamboo shoots.

Angelica Tree (or Fatsia) buds - タラノメ - Aralia elata
butterbur (or coltsfoot) sprouts - フキノトウ - Petasites japonicus
bamboo shoots - チシマザサ or ネマガリタケ - Sasa kurilensis

butterbur - coltsfoot
[butterbur - フキ - Petasites japonicus; too mature to eat!]

The Angelica tree buds and the butterbur can be boiled or fried as tempura. They are a bit bitter but leave a clean refreshing aftertaste. The bamboo shoots are very tender and can be eaten raw as they are picked. Dipped in mayonaise they are good too. Another way to prepare them is to steam or barbecue them. Thay are delicious no matter what you do to them.

Dont eat!
[Angelica Tree Bud infested with aphids]

Watch out for bugs, though, whenever you are harvesting wild veggies! We picked most of our butterbur sprouts on May second near Geto in Kitakami but it was almost too late. It would have been better to get them a week or two earlier. My wife told me not to get the ones next to the road. I thought she was worried about all the car exhaust but it turns out she was more worried about the people who stopped to relieve themselves along the side of the road! has an interesting account of the benefits of eating butterbur. Apparently it is effective in relieving allergies, hay fever and migraine headaches. also has a page on this. There are a few recipes online such as this one from Yasuko-san's Home Cooking!

You can go to the Iwate Buddy's website to see a picture of bamboo being barbecued at the Maesawa Beef Festival! There is also another picture here from the 2004 festival! We will be there again this next weekend, June 4, 2006.


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