When mountains slopes become salad ingredient paradises. There are good things growing at your feet in Japan and some of them are edible!
Sansho (Japanese Pepper)
These low (1 to 5 meter) shrubs grow in mountain meadows and around the base of hills. Young leaves appear in March and continue growing till May. The fruit comes out in June and July. The young leaves (called kinome) are good in miso soup (especially in akadashi) and on maze-gohan pilaff, too. They are often used to garnish boiled bamboo shoots. The pepper pods are boiled with soy sauce to make a delicacy called tsukudani.
This plant grows around houses or along the Kamo River banks in Kyoto from March to June. It's 50-100 cm high and easy to find. The young leaves are boiled, ground, and mixed with mochi dough to make Yomogi mochi. When sweet beans are put inside, it becomes a popular home-made cake. Or dry the leaves, put a handful in a cotton cloth, and add it to your bath. Like soaking in an onsen!
Seri (Japanese watercress)
You can find this on the banks of rice fields and in wet places from around March to May. It's about 20 - 40 cm in height. It can be cut finely and sprinkled on miso soup, or added to maze-gohan.
This well-known flower appears from March to April. It can be made into tempura, or mixed with walnuts, peanuts, or sesame and flavored with a bit of soy sauce and sugar. Mustard can be added to spice it up.
Grows in wet places from March to May. It's usually 30 - 60 cm in height and is good in miso soup, and in maze-gohan.
Nanohana (rape blossom)
This green vegetable with the thick stalk and yellow flowers looks, and is, good enough to eat. It's delicious made into tempura, or blanched and then flavored with sesame and soy sauce. If you can manage to gather all the above plants, why not have a tempura extravaganza? On your way down from the mountains, just be sure to stop by a liquor store for some sake. Have a healthy Spring!
Written by Ian Ropke, founder and owner of Your Japan Private Tours (YJPT, since 1992), a Japan destination expert for travel and tourism. He specializes in private travel (customized day trips with guides / private guided tours) and digital guidance solutions (about 25% of our business and growing!). Ian and his team offer personalized quality private travel services all over Japan. To learn more, visit www.kyoto-tokyo-private-tours.com or call us on +1-415-230-0579.
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