Cultivated Days | Stalking Spring I
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Stalking Spring I

Stalking Spring-02Looking out on the bare branched landscape basking in the clear day’s brightness, it is easy to believe that spring has drawn back winter’s curtain in preparation for an entrance. But as we embark on this foray, a heavy sweater and down vest are barely enough to keep away the grasp of late winter’s pleading hands.

Stalking Spring-01We are in search of Fukinoto, the early flower of the common weed butterbur.  They tentatively poke sleepy heads out from protective leaf cover and herald spring.  These early, shy flowers must be hunted with keen eyes peering under a tangle of winter detritus.  First we spot the leaves, a heart of light green fanning from a single stem.  There we hope to find a flower huddled in a blanket of decaying flora.  They are the green of new beginnings, the only other sign of life in a still barren, brown landscape.  Leaf, stem and flower alike are edible.  The aroma is strong and basic, like the vapors of warm wet dirt on a sunny day.  On the tongue they are bitter and earthy, the taste of spring breaking from winter.

The buds are best caught at a tender stage when small and hidden in a trumpet of delicate leaves.  They are perfect in their entirety, lightly battered and deep-fried as tempura.  For a mellower taste, make a paste of sweet white miso, a splash of stock and chopped almonds.  Add blanched, chopped and wrung buds for a sublime appetizer.

Stalking SpringDyp1The tender, young stems and leaves sauté beautifully in a veil of olive oil. And when the harvest is high and there are more than we can eat, it’s time to preserve. Blanched and chopped fukinoto combined with the holy trinity of Japanese cooking, stock, sake and soy, are simmered until all moisture has been incorporated. Stored in a glass container in the fridge, this fukinoto tsukudani will last may weeks and is the perfect addition to a bowl of steaming white rice.

  • gluttonforlife
    Posted at 14:53h, 29 January

    How I envy you! Here there is nothing but frozen tundra and dreams of spring.

    • Prairie
      Posted at 15:15h, 29 January

      GFL, It will come, it will come…

  • Alana
    Posted at 16:43h, 29 January

    Such a treat to find your lovely photos and take a break from editing to savor the (imagined) taste of this wild delicacy. Do they grow hereabouts, I wonder?

    Our deeply fierce winter cold in Maine makes it all the more alluring to think of greens. We are using avocados made into a thick sauce (with a bit of maple syrup, juice of lemon, and a touch of Greek olive oil) to spread on raw baby spinach for a special salad treat these days.

    • Prairie
      Posted at 16:59h, 29 January

      Oh Alana, that sounds delicious!!

  • Roy
    Posted at 17:29h, 29 January

    Something to live for.

    • Prairie
      Posted at 18:14h, 29 January

      It sure is Roy!

  • Tomo
    Posted at 03:48h, 27 January

    I hope my Fukinoto is ok under the ice now… Sorry I could not see you guys this time but I’ll try another time. Say hello to Hanako and Kuniko.

    • Prairie
      Posted at 07:57h, 27 January

      Tomo, I’m sorry we missed you this time too. Maybe next year? I hope your fukinoto are safe and sound! Stay warm this winter. I hope we get to see you in the states this summer~

  • Steve
    Posted at 09:58h, 28 January

    You’re such a beautiful writer…and these look amazing!

    • Prairie
      Posted at 01:51h, 30 January

      Thank you for such kind words, Steve!