Tag Archives: Japan

Wasabi shop, the Kawazu-Nanadaru Loop Bridge and the Kawazu Seven Falls

Last week, I blogged about a fantastic visit to a wasabi farm on the Izu peninsular in Japan during spring 2016, see

A visit to a Wasabi farm on the Izu peninsular in Japan

This was close to one of the world’s most amazing road bridges, the Kawazu-Nanadaru Loop Bridge,  a double spiral bridge finished 37 years ago in 1982, see https://www.dangerousroads.org/asia/japan/895-kawazu-nanadaru-loop-bridge-japan.html

Here’s a short video driving the loops:

Nearby was a shop selling a myriad of wasabi products! Let me know if you can translate any of the signs in the album! At the bottom are a few pictures from a popular nearby walk, the Kawazu Seven Falls.

We did a small hike along the Kawazu Seven Falls trail:

A visit to a Wasabi farm on the Izu peninsular in Japan

On 3rd April 2016 I was on an amazing study tour in Japan to witness first hand the cultivation of perennial vegetables. These are wild native species which were previously wild foraged in Japan but are now cultivated to meet demands for what is collectively known as sansai (mountain veggies).  There’s a whole section of supermarkets devoted to sansai. The one we are most familiar with in the west is wasabi, but for most of us it is in name only as it is almost always horseradish, mustard and food colouring which are the ingredients of wasabi sauce offered in sushi bars, rather than genuine wasabi (Wasabia japonica).

The farm we visited was on the Izu peninsula, a popular tourist area.  It was one of the most beautiful and naturalistic farms that I’ve witnessed anywhere and could be categorised as a permaculture forest garden with shade-loving wasabi growing in running water diverted from a river into an intricate series of neatly set out beds and intercropped with trees like loquat and other fruit. Most of the work seems to be done manually.

First, a few videos from the farm and below can be found an album of pictures of wasabi and other plants we saw, including at a shrine and associated vegetable garden adjacent to the farm! Wasabi has very narrower ecological requirements to produce well, including shade and running cool mountain spring water.

17th March 2019:  I’m adding three pictures at the bottom of a group of “wild” wasabi plants growing in quite a dry shady environment in the hills near to Toyota in Japan!

 

I’m adding below three pictures of a group of wasabi plants growing in quite a dry shady environment in the hills near to Toyota in Japan:

…and a flowering plant in the Kyoto Botanical Gardens:

Oriental and asiatic hybrid lilies

This is an asiatic hybrid lily growing in the garden of the flat I stayed in in Jondal during the Nordic Permaculture Festival!

An asiatic hybrid lily

According to wikipedia, asiatic hybrids include “hybrids of many Asiatic species and their interspecific hybrids, including  Lilium brownii,  Lilium henryi,  Lilium leucanthumLilium regaleLilium rosthorniiLilium sargentiae and Lilium sulphureum. The flowers are trumpet shaped, facing outward or somewhat downward, and tend to be strongly fragrant, often especially night-fragrant.”  Of these, both L. brownii and L. henryi are used for food.

On the other hand oriental hybrids “are based on hybrids within Lilium section Archelirion,specifically Lilium auratum and Lilium speciosum, together with crossbreeds from several species native to Japan, including Lilium nobilissimum, Lilium rubellum, Lilium alexandrae, and Lilium japonicum. They are fragrant, and the flowers tend to be outward facing. Plants tend to be tall, and the flowers may be quite large. The whole group are sometimes referred to as “stargazers” because many of them appear to look upwards”

I’ve never tasted hybrid lilies, but maybe I should as two of the asiatics and all the 6 oriental species involved are eaten in Japan…most importantly L. auratum which is cultivated for markets on a field scale, the others mainly foraged I think! I wonder if anyone has hybridised lilies for food rather than beauty….an interesting project for someone perhaps?

Hosta nutrition

A nutritional analysis of Hosta is reported in the enclosed open access article from Japan (2017):  “Analysis of essential macro-micro mineral content of twelve Hosta taxa” by Mehraj, Nishimura and Shimasaki.  The good news is that the overall conclusion is that Hostas are  excellent sources of a number of minerals important in human nutrition!
Various Hosta species were collected from the wild as well as from commercial vegetable growers (it is indicated that the Hosta were simply collected from the wild and are not selected otherwise), they were grown for a year in the open before being moved to pots for the analysis.

A few quotes:

“Hosta plant leaves have higher K and P content than that of the other (common) leafy vegetables.”

“We found one species (H.  sieboldii) among the studied 12 species containing 1.15% of Ca, higher than STFC-2015, Japan and all levels found in other studies conducted in different countries for various wild edible plants. Data from our study indicated that H. sieboldii could be an excellent daily diet source of Ca. It appears that Japanese people used to consume this species as a source of calciums. The results of this study indicate that hosta taxa are a good source of Mg and Mn.”

“The Zn content of hosta leaves was higher than other fresh vegetable reported”

“Hosta plant leaves contained higher minerals than that of asparagus. From the results and discussion, it is clear that hosta leaves are a very good dietary source of minerals.”

“H. alismifolia, H. sieboldii, H. nakaiana, H. longissima, H. montana can be considered excellent sources of some minerals and can be recommended for their K, Ca, Fe, P, Mg, Zn content.”  (NB! H. montana is often considered as a synonym or subspecies of H. sieboldiana)

Download (PDF, 265KB)

Hosta icicles (yuki urui)

The other day I discovered a long suffering Hosta that I’d covered with a bucket in the spring. Surprisingly the blanched shoots were in good condition despite the warmth. We ate them as a salad with a simple dipping sauce (roasted sesame oil, soy sauce and pepper! And it was delicious, mild tasting, crispy and refreshing, the texture and shape of the leaf reminding my friend of artichoke! The day afterwards, I ate the rest lightly fried with garlic and chili in an omelette with sea kale broccolis! I’m sure you can use any Hosta for this. In Japan, Hosta montana is the main species cultivated for the markets. We found blanched Hosta shoots or urui in all the supermarkets in late march / early april during my study trip to Japan. However, H. montana is not an accepted species name by the Plant List (plantlist.org) and is often given as a variety, H. sieboldiana var montana or var gigantea. However, on the taxonomy account at http://www.hostalibrary.org/species/pdf/species_part1.pdf, it is stated that H. montana is so obviously different from H. sieboldiana that even the average gardener can tell them apart! For this reason, I used H. montana in my book as it is still commonly used in horticulture. For a list of cultivar names known as H. montana, see http://myhostas.be/db/hostas/montana. Hosta undulata is also noted on the Japanese Hosta wiki page as being used. This is no longer accepted as a species and is considered to be a group of cultivars H. “Undulata” (see http://myhostas.be/db/hostas/undulata for a list of cultivars associated with Undulata).

On the Japanese Hosta wiki (translated with Google translate), the main producing area for urui is given as  Yamagata prefecture (north of Tokyo on the other side of Honshu), which ship light green young shoots which are used for salads , pickles , stir-fry , with miso sauce , vinegar miso , miso soup , mixed rice , sushi rolls etc. This explains why we didn’t see the production of Hosta during our farm trips south of Tokyo.
The Japanese name is 雪うるい (yuki urui) which means snow leaf or icicles (google the Japanese name to see many pictures). They are produced in darkened greenhouses for an extended season or the rows are mounded outdoors. The production techniques seem to be different judging by the colour of the urui sold in supermarkets.

The many faces of burdock

One of my favourite multi-purpose vegetables and one of my first unusual vegetables  that I grew in my garden in the 80s was burdock or borre, more specifically various Japanese cultivars of Arctium lappa, hardly used in Europe and North America apart from a few foragers, even though it’s a common wild plant and hardy.  Although it is best known as a root vegetable, there are varieties bred for their leaf petioles and the flower stems are really delicious! If you add to this that the seeds are foraged by various birds like goldfinches and greenfinches in winter in addition to being impressive photogenic plants which tolerated shady conditions, no permaculture garden should be without them!
In the album below are pictures I’ve taken over the years, in my garden, in botanical gardens and in the wild. There follows links to various blog posts about burdock!

Burdock in Japan
http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=11024
Burdock and goldfinches
http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=8810
Greenfinches on burdock
http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=2642
Cardboard and fiberboards from Burdock and about its cultivation
http://www.edimentals.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Br%C3%B8ndegaard_on_burdock.pdf
An interesting barlotto (burlotto?)
http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?page_id=4052
Goldfinches
http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=2768
Perennial Greens June 2015 (including burdock flower stems)
http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?page_id=1772
Flower stem sweet and sour
http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?page_id=1535
Burdock Flower Stalk Curry
http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=15132
Edinburgh’s Burry Man
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ro4DXRMVdgY

From Malta to Japan and back again

The article below, published in Grobladet in 2006 is the story (in Norwegian) of how one of the commonest spring flowers in the Mediterranean countries became one of the most important vegetables in Japan, yet was completely forgotten at home…this is the story of shungiku, the edible-leaved Chrysanthemum, Glebionis coronaria.

Download (PDF, 2.69MB)

Grobladet was the magazine of Oikos, Norway’s biggest organic organisation.