Takenoko; a taste of spring

Spring is the time to harvest bamboo shoots, or takenoko.

The bamboo plant used to be an indispensable part of daily life in Japan, being used as a building material or as kitchen utensils in the form of chopsticks, food containers, or colanders. Many bamboo tools have been replaced with plastic ones, while takenoko continues to be widely eaten, loved for its crunchy texture and slightly bitter taste.

Here in Kanazawa, the first moso bamboos were cultivated in 1766 and were introduced into the suburbs of the city. Nowadays, the city certifies 15 types of indigenous vegetables as ‘Kaga Yasai’ branded products, one of which is takenoko.

Takenoko is only harvested when the shoots are very young, just after the green tips poke through the soil, which is why they are called takenoko (lit. means ‘child of bamboo’). Takenoko are used in a wide variety of dishes, while takenoko rice, simmered takenoko, and tempura are traditional favorites. Freshly dug ones can be simply sliced and eaten raw.

Despite the fact that many vegetables are grown in greenhouses nowadays to satisfy year-round demand, takenoko are harvested only once a year. It is said that takenoko will sprout from the ground 7-10 days after the cherry trees start to blossom. Both are eagerly anticipated by Japanese people as signs of spring.