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Japanese Butterbud Sprouts in Very Early Spring
Older Japanese adults like things that taste slightly bitter, so it is no wonder that they enjoy eating Japanese butterbud sprouts, an early spring vegetable. Actually, what we call a “butterbud sprout” is a stalk of the butterbud with a bunch of flower-buds on its top. Later, seeds from the flowers will grow to be huge & unique-shaped leaves (also edible!) that might well be used by fogs and other small creatures as convenient umbrellas during the rainy season in early summer. Although I have never seen the sprouts coming up from the ground yet, there were many chances to watch T.V. programs that show a view of the butterbud sprouts springing up from the ground which is still covered with snow to let the audience know that spring is on its ways.
The tiny butterbud sprouts, which we bought at the local famers, were veiled with thin bracts whose color was yellowish green, and which had many veins like vertical stripes. Inside of the bracts, young flower buds, whose color was also yellowish green, were ready to grow higher to bloom, make seeds, and splash them onto the ground to make the next generation. BUT, we shouldn’t wait for the sprouts to mature in order to eat them, for by then, they will be tough and their scent will already be gone. They are best harvested as soon as they come out of the ground.
The representative dishes of the Japanese butterbud sprout are “tempura” and pan-fried with “miso”. The ideal taste of the butterbud sprout is the one that leaves enough slight bitterness to be pleasurable - just enough to remind us of the taste of spring. I think that deep-fried in batter and pan-fried with miso are the cooking methods for making such dishes. Making “tempura” using Japanese butterbud sprouts is quite simple. Make wheat batter with cold water, dip the sprouts into it, and deep-fry them. That’s it. The color of the sprouts becomes deeper which can be seen under thin & crispy layer of batter. When you take a bite and break the coating, a hot & bitter aroma rises from inside the coating. Spring has arrived to the table, too.
It takes a bit more time to make “Pan-fried Japanese butterbud sprouts seasoned with “miso””. Boil the sprouts in water for a few seconds and then soak it in cold water for a while to reduce its harsh taste. Wring water from the sprouts and cut them up finely. Heat a frying pan, put oil into it, and star-fry them. Season them with “miso”, Japanese sweet “sake”, and a little bit of sugar. When you sense a nice aroma of “miso” rising from the pan, it is ready to eat. The dish is usually seasoned thickly, so we eat it little by little with boiled rice or “sake”. Although we eat it a little at a time it will be gone before you know it. The combination of Japanese butterbut sprouts, “miso”, and oil is so delicious that you might just want to enjoy one portion after another.
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