During the early days of Japan, many people suffered death due to famine and had limited amount of food from scarcity. Thanks to Uesugi Yozan 上杉鷹山, also known as Uesugi Harunori 上杉治憲, the potential of consuming wild vegetables was discovered and fewer people suffered from famines in the country.
山菜 (Sansai) which means mountain vegetables, are edible wild vegetables. These are now available all throughout the country and many people eat them using different cooking methods. So here, let’s check out these wild vegetables in Japan!
The shoots and young leaves of Yama Udo are both edible and eaten in many ways. The shoots of this plant can be eaten pickled or the leaves added to soups, salads and as well as stir fries and tempura.
Tara no me is a delicious and nutritious plant and is often considered the king of wild vegetables. This edible plant is picked by hand but cannot be eaten raw because of the large amount of bitter compound. Instead, the tara no me are boiled or soaked in water to remove the astringency. This edible wild vegetable is best eaten battered as tempura.
The kogomi is a plant species native to Japan and is easily distinguished with its curled spiral fern. This plant is one of the most bitter wild vegetables requiring a process to remove its bitterness by boiling and drying. Kogomi are typically prepared boiled in soy sauce and cooking stock, making them mild in flavor.
Yomogi is a nutritious plant that is abundant everywhere in the country. The young leaves of the yomogi plant are eaten in early spring. Yomogi is also eaten in many ways like serving it boiled or even by having it boiled and pounded into a paste for rice cakes.
The Koshiabura plant looks like an elongated bud with little leaves at the tip. Koshiabura can be eaten by boiling it first then adding different dressings of choice like Ponzu or Goma. This plant can also be made into takikomi gohan and is even a medicinal plant.
You might have eaten these sansai as tempura without knowing they’re wild vegetables! These sansai are now available pre-boiled in many supermarkets all over Japan so there’s no need for you to go into the mountains to pick them up if you want to eat them. These wild vegetables are another part of Japanese cuisine so go try them out!