Back from the woods with some edible treats

Posted on August 9, 2011


It has been quiet around here lately, but no, this isn’t dead-air radio. I was up in Nagano doing a bit of work. Fortunately, during a rare bit of off-time, I was able to take an evening stroll around the property of the hotel I was staying at. I saw a nice, lush forest, lots of little frogs and grasshoppers, and a very interesting tree. The tree was about 3-4 meters tall and had some strange red berries, not growing in clusters and pointing straight up to the sky. Only a few of them had started to turn red and the green ones were still holding on to some large white flower petals. I had never seen anything like it and I wasn’t sure if the berries were edible or not. So, back I went to my room to check a cool little book that I bought recently at Cook Coop, a great little cookbook shop in Shibuya.

I found the berries in the book and identified them as yamaboshi やまぼうし (known as kousa dogwood in English and benthamidia japonica in Latin). A little bit more about this variety of dogwood here. According to my book, the flavour of the berries resembles that of figs, which I LOVE, but these ones didn’t taste like much and were kind of dry. Despite their being bright red, and some of them starting to drop to the ground, I don’t think that yamaboshi are in high season now. I bet they will be tastier and juicier towards the end of summer. Wikipedia states that the berries will reach 2-3cm in diameter, but these were only about 1cm. Nevertheless, an interesting discovery. The book describes how to make sweets and booze from these berries. I think I’ll be throwing mine in a smoothie.

The book, by the way is called 道草料理入門—野山は自然の菜園だ (my translation: Guide to cooking with roadside plants – The hills and fields are a natural garden).

Posted in: harvest, wild