Off-the-Eaten Path Food Experience in Japan. "Meet the People and Places behind your Plates! "

Thursday 7 April 2016

ethnobotany: plant-human relationship co-existant in living satoyama

kamiseya village in the north Kyoto

Having lunch outside is something special.
Seya, a village with 25 residents is located in the North of Kyoto, where traditional knowledge of living with nature is still alive.

Japan has 4 seasons; spring, summer, autumn, and winter.
Spring is the budding season.
wild plants are easily harvested and no need to buy leafy vegetables this time in rural villages.

in the late autumn, villagers start to process preserved food for winter - pickes, dried vegetables, or tuber crops.

In the remote village, villagers have more knowledge to be self-sufficient.
Today, we learned how to distinguish edible plants and how to eat them from a ground mother in Tango peninsula, northern Kyoto.

learning traditional knowledge on edible plants from a villager

plants which can be observed in Tango peninsula

Japanese name: Giboushi 
Scientific name:  Asparagaceae, Agavoideae, Hosta
English name: Hosta

Hosta or Plantain Lillies is a shade-torelant plant, native to Eastern Asia, Japan, Korea and China.
Its stem is used for salad or pickles, and also dried and preserved during winter.

Japanese name:  Itadori, sukanpo, suiba, 
Scientific name:  Fallopia japonica
English name:  Japanese knotweed

Sukanpo, or Suiba are local dialect and it stands for "sour".
it grows upto 1.5m but young sprout is edible
it can be harvested in summer and its sour taste ease summer heat fatigue.
Insect called dongoro mushi in Japanese is living inside the stem, which is used as feed for fishing river fish

Japanese name: Kuromoji 
Scientific name: Lindera umbellata
English name:  ?

I cannot find English name for this tree, but it is quite common to see in the mountain in Japan.
also, this tree is culturaly important; stem is used for youji, skewer to eat moist wagashi for tea ceremony.
it is also sold as fukugi tea in Shimane prefecture.
as the name kuromoji (kuro is black + moji is letter) suggests, the stem is black colored and it has fragrant oil of telephoned such as limonene and terpineol.

Japanese name: Matatabi
Scientific name: Actinidia polygama
English name: silver vine or cat powder
the underside of leaf is white and easily found in summer time in the green mountain.

Japanese name:  no wasabi
Scientific name: Wasabia japonica
English name:  wild wasabi, or Japanese horseraddish

Wasabi is brassica species same as radish, turnip and cabbage.
Its flower is similar to watercress. It can be found near clear spring stream.
The roots of wasabi are mashed and mixed with soy source for eating sushi.

Japanese name: Haze, ryukyu haze
Scientific name:  Toxicodendron succedaneum 
English name:  wax tree

As English name suggests, it is used to extract wax.
In japanese, it is also called as ryukyu haze, old name of Okinawa, and the tree was imported from Okinawa for wax. 
in an exoteric buddhist sect, shingon sect, this tree is used to make a fire offering called goma.

Japanese name: nokanzo
Scientific name:  Hemerocallis fulva var. longituba 
English name:  orange daylily, ditch lily

this plant is said to be native to Asia. 
"no" is wild in Japanese. 
the young leaf of nokanzo is usually harvested in spring.
it contain not so much harshness compared to other wild plants, and easy to eat.

To learn about traditional knowledge to use wild plants, it is nice to visit local people. In spring to summer time, villagers go out to pick new leaf and in autumn, they harvest fruits of trees.

maybe it is nice to cook with villagers by using harvested wild plants.

itookashi kobo in seya
where we organized millet festival (Japanese)