Early spring and all the lovely activity that comes with it lifts the spirits!
Let me tell you first about an activity that I’ve discovered since moving here. It isn’t just a spring activity but it is easiest for me to participate in during spring……gathering sansai.
Sansai is the Japanese word for mountain vegetable – wild edible plants found in the fields, river banks and woodlands of the Japanese countryside. There are some interesting facts about gathering and using sansai BUT I’ve just written an article for Taikan Japan on that subject in my new series for them: At Home in Rural Japan. When the article is released soon I’ll share the link here -don’t want to be a spoiler.
For now-just come along with me as we forage for nanohana. When I took you on the walk down to the shrine and historical home a while back I shared a photo of a single stem of nanohana, one of the harbingers of spring. They are beginning to pop up everywhere now and this is the perfect time to forage for them. You can buy them cut and neatly packed at the farmer’s market but it is so much more enjoyable to wander the little country roads, dirt paths and fields gathering them yourself. This is what I have been doing almost daily.
Donning my garden apron and a light jacket, basket in hand I set off for my secret spot where I’ve discovered a small field of newly sprouting, tender nanohana.
They are best picked when they look like this-rather like mini broccoli heads and in fact they are closely related to the broccoli family.
Walking among the spring grasses and ferns I savor the freshness that spring brings. I’m listening for the sound of the uguisu which will soon be heard singing through the valley-the loveliest bird song I have ever heard. A swarm of the tiniest of winged insects hover over a patch of snowdrops as I tread gingerly through the little patch I’ve found. I am overwhelmed with gratitude at what the Lord freely provides for me and I take only what we will eat for dinner tonight.
It is such a lovely day so I decide to wander a bit. Down by the river the ume trees are almost in full bloom and they look lovely draped over the river banks.
The bare trees you see here are sakura which are now full of buds and soon this humble river bank will be as glorious as any grand riverbank in Japan. We have already planned our hanami party. This year we will have a small BBQ on our patio so that mother and father in law can sit comfortably and enjoy viewing the sakura that are all around our home.
The path that runs along the riverside is inviting with its elegant carpet of moss and I wander down along the river’s edge until I reach the farm road at the end. There is a stunningly beautiful old farm house that sits right on the corner and as I look up I see a white Japanese heron perched right on top of the roof.
I watched it for quite a while-it never moved. What an interesting and beautiful scene. Standing for several minutes-I admired the home and wondered how on earth they kept that huge tree so beautifully manicured. It is quite expensive to have that done professionally. As I walked past the front of the home I laughed when I noticed that the crest on the roof-top edge was…a crane! The crest is located on the four corners of the home on each level of roof.
My wandering took me past a few old farmhouses and down to the small lake. Soon the trees along the lake’s edge will be full of nesting heron. I guess this is actually not a lake but one of the many rivers that run criss-cross through our area and all of Japan.
It was time to return home and prepare for dinner. Nanohana are easy to cook. I soak them first in a large basin of water-rinsing and changing the water several times. Then I boil them for about 2 minutes, drain them and refresh them in cold water for around 30 seconds.
The entire plant can be eaten-flower tops, stem and leaf.
After that they are squeezed to removed the excess water and cut up in to about 1 inch sized pieces. Seasoning is simple-I drizzle them with sesame oil and citrus soy-sauce. Today I added small crispy dried and fried fish. Really delicious.
My vegetables cooked -I set about placing the few wild flowers I foraged into vases around the house. The little wall vases are just darling. I found them the other day at our local Daiso of all places!
Now onto the next activity- sowing my flower seeds and nursing them until they grow into seedlings and the weather warms enough to put them into the ground.