Wild Food

What a discovery, an entire blog devoted to the edible plants found growing wild in Japan.


Funny how I have been fighting one particularly obnoxious "weed" in my garden, turns out it is sanshou, a very fragrant plant used for many dishes, and especially potent in May. Do cut its most recent leaves and add to your salad or any dish. This is how I found out!

I was in the middle of Tokyo, near Suidobashi station. Tokyo Achikoko is a small Okinawan restaurant with amazing staff that know a lot about food. This time, they simply went outside with a pair of small scissors and harvested the sanshou, and put it on one of the dishes we had ordered. I observed the process, went out to take a second look recognizing the shape of the leaves - my "weed" and confirmed that this is indeed a useful plant... I also enjoyed their original horsebean croquette and the vegetarian goya champuru...

Weeds do that to you. They expose your weakness, your lack of knowledge. You try to grow something but there is resistance. Turns out, the resistance is part of the "good" and you learn something. You fight, you lose, you learn, you grow. Your food grows...

And the blog? Well, they just moved to a new location... Very weed-like.

Thinking Like a Forest

Shikigami - where the wilds things are

Sanshõ (Zanthoxylum piperitum, Japanese pepper). This is a pungent little plant and while it is usually the dried husks of the seeds that are used, at this time of the year young small leaves can be eaten. The young leaves of spring are most often used as a garnish in Japan but if used sparingly they can add fantastic flavour to a dish. The key is to use sparingly. Sanshõ will make the tongue tingle – often a sign that you should be a little wary of a plant – but it is perfectly safe to eat. Maybe not in large quantities but I can’t imagine anyone would even try. It is far too intense for that. I sometimes see sanshõ in sugi and hinoki plantations (otherwise known as “the green deserts”). Usually I see it growing in dappled light to almost full shade.

If you are in the neighborhood, do consider paying them a visit for their permaculture lectures (note the homage to Masanobu Fukuoka). They do all kinds of events and encourage resilience education... Also visiting Tokyo from time to time...


Location: Shikigami. Shimoda, Shizuoka
Date: July 19/20/21, 2014
This introductory course is intended to provide a solid understanding of what permaculture is and what permaculture can offer as a response to some of the most pressing issues of our times; issues such as environmental degradation, species loss, climate change, peak oil, community breakdown, financial crises etc. This is not a permaculture design course – it is not a course in which you will learn how to do permaculture but rather, it is a course intended to give you a taste of what permaculture is, what it has to offer, and how to become involved.
The course will cover:
  • A brief history of permculture: from its beginnings in Australia to its development and application around the world.
  • Some of the fundamental terminology and concepts used in permaculture
  • Permaculture ethics and design principles
  • Examples of applied permaculture
  • Next steps: training up and applying permaculture where you are
Register for the Introduction to Permaculture workshop, July 19/20/21, 2014


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