Trip to the Japanese mountains in April 2016

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!
On FB: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153897515615860.1073742590.655215859&type=1&l=84704ca6c5

 

Shidoke

On my trip to Japan in spring 2016, I found shidoke (シドケ / Parasenecio delphiniifolia syn. Cacalia delphiniifolia) leaves on sale in a supermarket in Ueda, Japan. This is the only place I saw it during my 3 week visit to Japan, so not one of the most popular sansai or wild mountain vegetables. I’ve been growing this plant for a few years now in a very shady spot in the garden and it’s just come into flower which prompted this post. It’s a great woodland ornamental grown for its leaves and an unusual forest garden edimental. It is also known as momijigasa (モミジガサ) which translates as “maple umbrella” due to the similarity of the leaves to Acer palmatum. It resembles yaburegasa (Syneilesis palmata) meaning “torn umbrella”. I didn’t see shidoke in the wild, but I did see yaburegasain in one place on the Izu peninsula. Both of these plants in the Asteraceae have edible young shoots, although shidoke is the preferred one. I bought a packet in that supermarket and my friends Ken and Masami who we visited that night were kind enough to prepare it as tempura! It is apparently pleasant tasting raw, but is most often cooked and served with a little soy sauce and roasted sesame seed once cool. Shidoke contains antioxidants that have been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
See also http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=6357 (Visit to Ken and Masami) and this blog post on FB at https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10154213988935860.1073742705.655215859&type=1&l=eb0bc1fced