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How to Forage and Cook Sansai (山菜) in Spring in Japan

How to Forage and Cook Sansai (山菜) in Spring in Japan -

Sachiko Murata |

Have you picked wild edible plants in the mountains and cooked them? 

Spring is a good season for picking 山菜(Sansai). Sansai literally means mountain vegetables referring to wild edible plants.There are many types of Sansai we can collect in Japan. 


こごみ(Kogomi)- Ostrich Fern Fiddleheads 

 タラの芽(Taranome) -Sprouts of Japanese angelica tree 


わらび(Warabi) - Bracken shoots


For more than 10000 years  from the Jomon period, people have been going into the mountains foraging. They ate the wild plants and also preserved them by salt-pickling and drying. Nowadays, even though we can get almost any food in the stores, we still enjoy having SansaiPeople living in the countryside go to the mountains especially in the spring to pick Sansai山菜取りツアー(Sansai-Tori Tour) - Sansai picking tours are held in the country side every spring and it is a popular activity for people living in the city.

I myself also love eating Sansai. I like the bitter tastes and Sansai awakens my body. (See What "Spring Bitterness" Brings to You in Japan)

This time, with the kindness permission of my neighbor,  I went to the mountain near my home, Odawara, Kanagawa to pick one type of Sansai called ふき (Fuki - Japanese butterbur) in April, 2021. I will show you how we went and how I cooked it.


It took 5 minutes to get to the foot of the mountain.  




Many みかん(Mikan- Satsuma/ Mandarin orange) trees are planted in the mountain.  We walked through the trees.


Mikan trees


Then we found Fuki. Let's pick them ! 



We cut and picked. 



Then I took them home.



The first thing we need is 灰汁取り(Akutori) which is to remove some bitterness before cooking. 

After cutting them, I boiled them.







After boiling, I soaked them in fresh water and left them to cool for a while.


Akutori is done!  Now, we can start cooking.

煮る(Niru)-simmer is a traditional way of Japanese cooking. I simmered Fuki with shoyu(soy sauce), sugar and mirin (sweet cooking rice wine) for 20 minutes.  




 ふき煮 (Simmered Fuki stems)


 ふきの葉煮 (Simmered Fuki leaves)


The other day I had seasoned rice bowl with the Fuki leaves , chicken and some other vegetables.




I also stir-fried the leaves with some shrimps and made おにぎり(Onigiri) -rice balls. 



There are so many ways of enjoying Fuki.




This time I enjoyed picking and cooking Fuki very much. I think foraging and cooking give us a special feeling. Maybe because it links us back to our hunter-gather past.

If you have an opportunity to visit Japan in spring for the future, it would be good to enjoy picking and cooking Sansai



Related article:

What "Spring Bitterness" Brings to You in Japan