Cultivated Days | That day
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That day

Horsetail-1

A week ago that day came and went with little ceremony. As I ran errands I noted how that day four years ago had offered us the same azure skies. The air had been warm and still, a stillness in which the clench of cold days slackened and we could rejoice in the potential of spring. Then we heard. The stillness became uneasy. The heavens had gasped and didn’t dare exhale.

HorsetailDiptych1

We flew back to Maine and took up residence in limbo. We waited for the snow to melt and for Japan to evanesce. We rose unnaturally early and took long walks. Our talk turned hypothetical, philosophical. What would become of Japan? How should we proceed? Where should we live? Deep in such talk I haphazardly scanned the bare banks along the road as we walked. And there I saw it.

Exploding from my existential fog I crouched and started picking. They were everywhere, lining the road all the way home. Tsukushi, what I had thought was a regional wild vegetable foraged only in the countryside of Japan, was in fact horsetail, an unbridled New England weed. Years living in Japan had allowed me to see my own backyard anew. It was a revelation.

Horsetail-5

Finding tsukushi that day was the kick we needed to start living purposefully again. Limbo was an unacceptable abode. Regardless of what the future held, we were able bodied, the ground was offering unexpected sustenance, and it was our duty to make the most of each day.

Horsetail-2

Tsukushi Ohitashi

Take a long walk and gather horsetail. Choose the ones with meatier stalks and tight closed buds still containing plenty of bitter green pollen. (Open buds are entirely edible too, but will have less of that earthy spring flavor.)
Find a sunny stoop outside protected from chilly spring winds and remove the papery rings on the stalks.
Wash well and prepare a plentiful pot of hot water.
Blanch the horsetail and drain.

Gather together:
A few spoonfuls of dashi, if you have it
Light soy
Light sesame oil

When the horsetail are well drained (pat dry if you are in a hurry) gather them together in batches, lining up the buds. Cut into 1 inch (2-3 cm) lengths all the way down and place in a bowl. Add the dashi, a bit of soy to taste, and a bit of light sesame oil to mellow the flavor and add a lovely gloss. Enjoy~

13 Comments
  • Steve
    Posted at 10:20h, 17 March

    No kidding! These things grew all over in the fields where I grew up. I always thought they looked they were from a prehistoric era.

    Do you make your own dashi or is it available in cartons the way we can buy stock?

    • Prairie
      Posted at 21:30h, 18 March

      What a great description, Steve! Prehistoric for sure. Of course I make my own dashi! But yes, it is readily available premade as well. At least here in Japan it is. You could substitute any stock for dashi here too. Something with a little umami is what we’re after. Dashi is really quite simple to make, though. Next week’s post is all about dashi, so stay tuned…

      • Steve
        Posted at 13:43h, 20 March

        I feel silly for asking after I looked up a recipe for dashi and see how simple it is. There’s few reasons not to make your own. I have my kombu and bonito flakes but I’m eager to see if you add any other flavors. I’d love to be able to make a delicious miso soup. My wakame is waiting.

        We have a new supermarket just a few blocks from my house to get these ingredients. The daifuku was pretty good.

  • gluttonforlife
    Posted at 11:18h, 17 March

    Paradigm shift. I wonder if these grow near us?

    • Prairie
      Posted at 21:27h, 18 March

      They must! Absolutely must. I bet Tomo would have some ideas on when and where to find them in your neck of the woods.

  • Alana VanDerwerker
    Posted at 16:55h, 17 March

    Oh, how grateful I feel to have this look toward spring horsetails. Thank you! Huge drifts remain covering our fields and the Maine woods will be long in melting on the ground. Someday, though, we will have a day for gathering horsetails. And dandelion greens! Today a local farmer brought me a huge bunch of glorious spinach. (She grows it in a hoop house and the sun came out for a few days last week and the spinach stretched into the light, at last.) The fires in the stoves give comfort and we are feeling fine since the light is long into the evenings now. Ah, that jet stream is stubborn, though, and has stayed on its winter track for months. We’ll see how spring develops.
    Incidentally, the bowl in your photo is lovely and perfect for the bounty come spring.

    • Prairie
      Posted at 21:27h, 18 March

      Spring will get to you too Alana. It was early or mid April when we found horsetail in Maine. Dandilion greens sound lovely too. I would love to learn more about the summer foreageables in Maine too.

  • Mora
    Posted at 01:10h, 18 March

    I cannot wait to take a drive tomorrow afternoon to search for young horsetail! Fingers crossed I will find them! And if I do, and it’s not too late, we will dine on them for dinner. Thank you so much for the guidance and recipe!!! The day I retire – 14+ months and counting – we are hitching a ride to Japan and taking a foraging class. It’s number 1 on my bucket list.

    • Prairie
      Posted at 21:24h, 18 March

      Keep me posted, Mora! Would love to know if you found any and if so, how they turned out. And can I take that foraging class in Japan with you??

  • Wonkang
    Posted at 19:04h, 18 March

    Hoping today and everyday being kind to you, and sending you good thoughts. 🙂

    • Prairie
      Posted at 21:23h, 18 March

      Thank you!

  • rich puls
    Posted at 09:47h, 22 March

    P
    regarding the bright sabbath morning
    harbor turbulent with furious north westerlies
    turning to your unopened dispatch with wonder
    the recollection of noticing the abundant horsetail
    reminiscent of this insight thoreau once shared
    ” the question is not what you look at, but what you see”
    i will keep an eye peeled as the incised ditches clear
    thank you for the reminder
    R

    • Prairie
      Posted at 00:28h, 24 March

      Your words are such poetry, Rich. Thoreau was wise, and I’m grateful to feel your presence here today.