Friday, March 12, 2010

Sawarabi(young bracken)

Sawarabi(早蕨:young bracken fronds curled) is frequently used in making Japanese confections as a motif representing early spring.

This is a confection named suhama(州浜) and has the shape of young bracken fronds curled.

sawarabi(早蕨) is also the 48th chapter's title of "The Tale of Genji" written by Murasaki Shikibu. Its title comes from the following waka poem of Nakanokimi(中君).

この春は誰にか見せむ 亡き人の形見に摘める 嶺の早蕨
"To whom should I show plucked young bracken as a remembrance of the dead this spring?"

Her father's teacher sent annual spring gift such as warabi(蕨:bracken) or tsukushi(土筆:horsetail) to Nakanokimi who had lost her father and sister.

We eat warabi(蕨:bracken) after removing harshness and boiling. Starch from the rhizomes is used to make Japanese confections. Being produced in small quantities, the starch is expensive. So another starch is usually sold as a substitute for it.
At Japanese-style confection stores in Kyoto, the confections containing the bracken rhizome starch go on sale for the limited period from the end of February to early March.

warabi-mochi(蕨餅), a well-known confection using the rhizome starch, is usually eaten in summer. It's like a translucent, sticky and firmer jelly. It is made by stirring water containing the starch and sugar into sticky paste on heating. After making it, I became sweaty all over and have sore muscles. So I don't feel so much like making it. Although you can make it quickly in a microwave recently,
it becomes doughier by stirring many times.

We also eat other early spring vegetables such as zenmai(薇:flowering fern) resembling a bracken, tara-no-me(たらの芽). It is the shoots of taranoki(楤木:Aralia elata or apanese Angelica-tree). We fry its nipped shooting buds in a tempura batter. It's my favorite. Its bitter taste is a sign of early spring.

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