Japanese Spring Vegetable – Udo

Spring is an exciting time for vegetable lovers in Japan. Udo (Aralia cordata) is spikenard. It is grown here in Tokyo in the area where we live. It is grown underground and the spears are white or with a hint of green. There is even a character, Udora, for udo in Tachikawa. While most characters strive to be kawaii (cute), Udora is far from kawaii.

Udo reminds me of the white asparagus I had while living in Belgium, just with a bit of bitterness to it. It is lovely as tempura, as served at Nihonbashi Tenmatsu.

Two of my other favorite dishes are kinpira (top photo), sautéed with oil, sake, soy sauce, and a bit of sugar. The bottom photo is boiled udo dressed with mayonnaise and umeboshi.

Udo is one of Japan’s spring vegetables that is very easy to cook at home.


February Seasonal Japanese Fruits and Vegetables 2月旬の野菜

Sansai Gohan

Sansai Gohan

Sansai, Japanese mountain vegetables, start to come into the market this time of year. Growing up, my mother and her Korean friend, Ki-san, would forage for warabi (fiddleheads of bracken) in the forest in Minnesota. There was always a short window to pick these as they grow very quickly. Once home the fiddleheads were washed thoroughly, blanched, and then simply dressed with some soy sauce. Fuki (giant butterbur) cooked into a sweet soy broth Tsukudani style is one favorite. Fukinoto (butterbur buds) are best when deep-fried as tempura. Shungiku leaves are wonderful in nabe (hotpots) or blanched and dressed with a sesame dressing. But perhaps my favorite thing this time of year is sansai served over soba or cooked with the rice for sansai gohan.

Sansai Soba

Sansai Soba

Broccoli –

Cabbage –

Cauliflower –

Celery –

Daikon –

Fuki – giant butterbur

Fukinoto – butterbur buds

Gobo – burdock root

Hakusai – Napa cabbage

Hoursensou – spinach

Komatsuna – Japanese green (sometimes called mustard spinach) in turnip family

Kuwai – arrowhead

Mitsuba – Japanese hornwort (also called Japanese parsley)

Mizuna – Japanese green (sometimes called potherb mustard)

Yamaimo – Japanese mountain yam

Nanohana – rapeseed flowers

Naganegi – Japanese leeks

Ninjin – carrots

Nozawana – Nozawa greens (in the same family as the turnip)

Renkon – lotus root

Seri – Japanese celery

Shungiku – chrysanthemum leaves

Udo – udo (a Japanese vegetable in the ginseng family)

Wakegi – green onions

Warabi – fiddleheads of bracken

Yurine – lily root


Strawberries are all over the markets now, and perhaps best experienced in sweets found at depachika. We try to keep some fresh yuzu in the fridge using the juice for ponzu and the aromatic peel as a garnish. The Los Angeles Times recently did an interesting article on dekopon.

Daidai – a type of orange

Dekopon – a type of citrus

Hassaku – a type of citrus

Ichigo – strawberry

Iyokan – a type of citrus

Kinkan – kumquat

Kiwi –

Lemon –

Navel orange –

Ponkan – a type of tangerine

Ringo – apple

Setoka – a type of citrus

Yuzu –