Edible Wild Plants for Japanese Cooking
In spring, edible wild plants called “Sansai” (山菜) appear in supermarkets. Sansai are considered very precious because they can be picked in mountains or fields for a short period of time, only a few weeks.
It is said that there are more than 200 varieties of Sansai, including sprouts, greens, and small, tender young grasses.
Although some Sansai have a bitter taste, they are used in a variety of dishes such as soba noodles, cooked rice, branched vegetables, and salads.
Tempura is a must for those who enjoy the taste of Sansai. When I was a child, my grandparents who lived in the countryside would send us wild vegetables from the mountains when it was time to harvest them. I still remember how my father used to happily eat them as tempura on the same day they were sent to us. (And I used to pick them up and eat them!) At the time, I ate them without really understanding how delicious they were, but now I realize that it was a luxurious time.
Some popular Sansai include:
Asatsuki (あさつき) : Chives
Fuki (ふき) : Japanese butterbur
Fuki no to (ふきのとう) : Unopened bud of Japanese butterbur
Katakuri (かたくり) : Dog’s-tooth violet
Nobiru (のびる) : Red garlic
Seri (せり) : Water dropwort
Tara no me (たらのめ) : Shoot of the Angelica tree
Tsukushi (つくし) : Field horsetail shoot
Udo (うど) : Japanese spikenard
Warabi (わらび) : Bracken
Yomogi (よもぎ) : Mugwort
Zenmai (ぜんまい) : Royal fern
* Reference of this article : Food Sake Tokyo (The Terroir Guides)