Tsukushi (Equisetum arvense) or field horsetail is a much loved spring vegetable in Japan and Korea. In Norway, it is called kjerringrokk or åkersnelle and is only used as a medicinal herb (the green summer stems are used) in particular for urine tract infections and for strengthening hair and nails (see this Norwegian article: http://www.rolv.no/urtemedisin/artikler/equi_arv/art1.htm). It is advised in Norway that one should be careful when picking as it is easily confused with Equisetum palustre (marsh horsetail) which is said to be “quite poisonous”. The two species can occur in similar habitats, as marsh horsetail can also grow in dampish soil, not just marshes. However, the wikipedia entry, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equisetum_palustre states that this species is poisonous to livestock but NOT humans.
On my study tour to Japan, I remember eating tsukushi 3 times, all as tempura and even found a farm growing it (see the pictures below). The best vegetables for tempura are strong tasting herbs such as tsukushi, green udo, dandelion etc. as the oil coats the tongue reducing the perception of bitterness!
This is a plant I would not recommend planting in a garden as it is one of the hardest plants to remove once you have it and many gardeners fight a never ending war on it!
My Facebook friend Kiku Day in Denmark allowed me to post her own cooking description: “You need to pick the fertile stems that shoot during early spring. You have to take off the whorls of brown scale leaves on these stems. Then you need to cook it. I think traditionally the Japanese cook with soy sauce and miring (sweet cooking sake), eat it with white rice or with fried eggs. However, this time I blanched them and fried them in olive oil with salt and pepper. I have to say that the “heads” of the plant are quite bitter. So you have to like bitter taste. Also, don’t eat the green plant that comes later but use those for tea.”
Each day on the trip to Japan had been equally amazing as the day before with new plant and food discoveries all the way!! The venue for my talk in Tokyo was the art/photography studio belonging to a guy called Ken Takewaki. It turned out he’d spent a lot of time in the UK working on organic farms and knew the owner of Poyntzfield Nursery in Scotland well and I’d already planned to try to visit Poyntzfield on my Scotland trip in September! Knowing that I was heading for the mountains after Tokyo, Ken kindly invited me to visit his mountain home! What a place and the food was out of this world! Ken and his lady Masami had made a special effort to feed me sansai!
The next morning it was as if I’d been transported home in my dreams as there was new snow on the ground at the Ken’s home at 1300m. The day before it has been over 20C at 600m! Thanks so much to Tei, who I got to know through Caroline Ho Bich-Tuyen Dang, a member of Norwegian Seed Savers, for showing me so much of her village near Besshou (Ueda) in Nagano Prefecture and sharing all the amazing sansai and sake and for taking me to Ken’s place! More on Besshou later when I get time!Thank you so much too Ken and Masami for your hospitality!
As usual, the highlight of these weekends is the incredible walk along the river Homla just 20 minutes from home with large quantities of Ostrich Fern along the way, truly one of Norway’s most beautiful plants and also most delicious!!
Basidioradulum radula (Tannsopp), earlier classified with the Hedgehog fungi!
Perennial vegetables, Edimentals (plants that are edible and ornamental) and other goings on in The Edible Garden