Sansai. n. ‘mountain vegetables’ from Japanese.
Sansai grow wild in marshlands, and grasslands, or in the forest. Japanese people have been gathering wild food to cook with since ancient times. In fact, wild plants or Sansai have helped Japanese when food has been scarce because of drought or some other natural disaster.
When food was in short supply after the Second World War, city-dwellers scoured the hills for tasty Sansai such as Warabi (bracken), Tara-no-me (angelica) and Kogomi (a type of fern).
Renkon: Lotus Root
Japanese Sansai like renkon or lotus root is found in many traditional Japanese dishes. Bamboo shoots are also another familiar wild food. In June, many people go on Sansai expeditions and can be very secretive about where their favourite wild foods grow. Japanese angelica buds are known as the King of Sansai’.
Yabu Kanzō: a day lily found in early spring. You can cook this in a soup or make tempura with it.
Fuki (Butterbur): is a bitter but versatile plant that looks a bit like rhubarb and has soft fat stems. You can cook it with miso and rice.
Mitsuba: A Sansai found in springtime with a similar flavour to parsley and used in soups and salads.
Zenmai (Japanese Royal Fern): is high in potassium and vitamins A and C. It is usually fried and served as a side dish with wild sesame.
Warabi: a fern that grows in the forest, you can eat the stems and make starch from the roots. There is a delicious chewy summer pudding called warabimochi.
Azami: a popular sansai in summer. This can be eaten with miso soup or pickled as a preserve.
[Pictured: Aralia elata, the Japanese angelica tree, Wikipedia]
Extracted from Shinrin-Yoku: The Art and Science of Forest Bathing by Dr Qing Li
Book Review: Shinrin-Yoku: The Art and Science of Forest Bathing by Dr Qing Li
[Pictured: Ryoan-Ji zen garden in Arashiyama, Kyoto. Content Catnip 2018]