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Spring in Tsukahara

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

In Search of Springtime

“Why are all these people roaming around in the fields around here?” I asked Erika. “They are searching for warabi and taranome”, Erika replied. It must be spring. I experienced this springtime ritual last year, but I had forgotten what it was all about. Apparently, Tsukahara is a good place to find warabi and taranome. What are they? Good question. They are plants that are edible. What do they look like? Here are some pictures:

What do they taste like? So many questions…I tasted warabi once when my next door neighbor made a salad or something with it. I think my comment was, “That’s it? What’s the big deal? It doesn’t taste like anything.” The reply from our neighbor was, “It supposed to taste like springtime.” My honest reply, “Umm, okay.” I haven’t eaten it since. The taranome is a relatively rare and hard to find. Taranome are the new shoots that come from a hideous looking tree that is covered with spikes. I think it’s so rare because no one wants to have this ugly thing growing in their yard. Lucky us…we have quite a few trees on the property next to us. Taranome is precious because the shoots have to be eaten as a sprout. Timing is critical. In the big cities, taranome is served at only the most expensive restaurants. My reaction to this factoid…why? Well, because it represents springtime.

Our neighbor’s late husband planted the taranome seeds on the property between us. He didn’t want those ugly looking trees in his yard. Our neighbor closely guards these plants even though they are not on her property… good luck with that. Since we have to look at them, we harvest whatever we want. Erika does her best to give this stuff away. I was told that it makes a very tasty tempura. I was also informed that the white sap that oozes from the severed sprouts are very sweet. The army of ants that invade the trees, after harvest, can attest to the sweetness.   George


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