In early spring the forests are filled with a wealth of edible shoots and sprouts but I'm afraid I have no knowlege whatsoever about what one should eat and what one should avoid. However many Japanese make it a hobby to go into the woods seeking out greenery that can be brought home and served at the dinner table. A few of my friends enjoy this treasure hunting and they will bring me the fruits of their search or cook it up for me to sample. Here are just a few of the natural foods that we've enjoyed the past couple weeks.
That bump back there behind the poles is a bamboo shoot. That is probably already too big to even think about eating but these little bumps can be seen every morning in the bamboo forest and by the evening they have grown an amazing number of inches. My kitchen has been overflowing with bamboo shoots already and they are somewhat of a pain to cook up but I do know what to do when someone hands one to me. After cooking the shoots last week I cut them up and made bamboo shoot tempura and bamboo shoot rice.
One neighbor brought me a bag of greenery last week which turned out to be shoots from a tree. The neighbor even took me into the forest to show me which tree was edible but I doubt that I'm going to go back there hunting for my own food. The tree shoots also got made into tempura alongside the bamboo shoot tempura.
A wonderful delicacy is fuki which I've never seen in the States though I can imagine that one might find them in the wetter parts of the States. (Any of you in Oregon and Washington ever seen this plant?) The stalk of the plant is eaten while the leaves are thrown away and it tastes sort of like a very soft celery... This is also best served simmered in soy sauce. And this morning someone brought me a plate of fern shoots and lightly fried Japanese pepper bush shoots. I remember my Japanese teacher's wife in Portland would go into the forest hunting for fern shoots and we students thought she was off her rocker.