Residents of Japan are normally most excited for spring season. Marking the end of winter, spring serves as a sign of new beginning. In addition, during this period, many activities, such as new fiscal year and academic classes, commence. Moreover, newly graduates commonly start working during spring.
FIRST SIGNS OF SPRING
One of the most common vegetables that grow during winter is the bright green nanohana, a close relative of broccoli. However, nanohana only grows in early stage of spring just prior to growing of other plants. One common meal served during early spring is the simple salad made from blanched nanohana with sesame or mustard dressing.
Another popular spring delicacy is “kinome” or the baby leaves of sansho pepper tree. These leaves are used for garnishing spring dishes to add more peppery, citrusy, and minty aroma.
Sansai are also normally grown and sold during early spring. These plants look like weeds and are picked in mountains and forests. People consume these plants to stimulate their body after winter season. Though a number of farms now plant sansei, some prefer picking these plants from mountains and countryside areas.
Sansai is known for its crisp texture and bitterish flavor. This taste is eliminated by soaking or boiling the plant’s leave before eating. Sansai comes in different varieties, including yama udo (Japanese mountain asparagus), fuki (Japanese butterbur), and kogom. People anticipate eating sansei because its growing period only lasts for a short time. The plant is normally eaten as salad or used as ingredient to soup or deep fried in tempura.
TAKENOKO IS THE STAR OF SPRING SEASON
One of the most favorite food eaten during spring is bamboo sprouts or takenoko. People very much anticipate for these plants as they grow very quickly. Some people take time to go to bamboo groves to pick takenoko themselves. In some areas, people can barbecue the bamboo shoot right after picking. Takenoko can also be eaten raw but may soon develop an unpleased egumi taste. Thus, in most cases, the shoots are boiled to remove the bitterness. During boiling, people may use some rice bran or water used in rinsing rice. In this modern era, some stores now offer pre-cooked or vacuum-packed takenoko. Still, some prefer following the traditional means of picking these bamboo sprouts.
Some of the classic meals made with takenoko include bamboo shoots with rice (takenoko gohan), a side dish made with wakame seaweed (wakatakeni), and cooked bamboo shoots with white miso dressing and kinome leaves (takenoko no kinome-ae).
OTHER SPRING PLANTS
In Japan, spring also marks the season for growing green asparagus, legumes, new potatoes, onions, and cabbage.