Grandma Forests and Takénokō
The hills are alive again. Throughout the year in the countryside, if you hear a rustling of leaves up in the hills, usually you will look up to find a few deer staring back at you. In April though, just as often these sounds can be attributed to the footsteps of Japanese grandmas. Yes, you read that correctly.
There are scores of them out there right now as I type, 4-5′ tall ewoks, crawling around and peeking their heads in the shrubs with little wooden walking sticks. They’re out on their own sort of easter egg hunt, foraging for mountain vegetables that spring has brought to the forests. Fern sprouts, mountain mushrooms, sanzai; all sorts of things that pop up only once a year and that you can’t find in the grocery store. I imagine they get quite competitive.
Of everything on their foraging list, I think the most prized is takénokō: baby bamboo. They cut off the roots and dig it up with shovels. It’s quite delicious and very healthy. You can put it in all sorts of dishes–salads, soups, and stews being most common. My favorite is yaké, just skewered and grilled over coals as-is.
Above: raw takénokō