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Edible Wild Plants for Japanese Cooking

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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) 

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