Yoshizen's Blog

Eating Bracken — Really ?

Eating raw fish such as in Sushi or Sashimi is now widely accepted

in the west. (And pretty well appreciated)

But they are only a tip of the iceberg in the “wired” Japanese menu.

A notorious fermented soya-bean = Nattou (納豆) might already been known to many

Japanese food connoisseur though, it is still not appreciated or in fact utterly rejected

by most of the westerners who feel it just rotten. 😀


Fermentation in the food making process is a tricky business, hence its subtle technique is

unique to each culture and the products may only be consumed by the people in its culture.

One of the Japanese delicacy [Shio-kara / 塩辛] was made out of Squid or Fish-guts with

salt, kept in a jar long time, and made them decomposed and melt.  For some Japanese,

it is a mouth watering delicacy. (But may not be for your mouth 🙂 ) —– so, I thought,

this kind of cooking is unique only to Japanese though, I learned from Italian chef, they

make very special delicacy = keep the chopped rabbit meat in a sealed jar long time to

make them ferment and melt = it is the same idea.

And in Iceland, people makes very unique delicacy out of Shark meat, by keeping it long

time and made it half rotten. (then eat its ammonium smelled meat,

sound very yummy isn’t it :-D)

So, Japanese to accept [Rotten Milk products] such as Cheese, took long time

as its funny smell is nothing but a prohibitingly dirty smell to us.


When bacteria decomposed the protein, generally we call its effect“Rotten

though, if people find it is still useful, it was called “Fermentation” 😀

Strangely, our Taste-bud feel, somewhat decomposed protein (a kind of Amino-acid) tasty.

So that, a Soy-source was made out of decomposed (fermented) soy-bean protein.

And a Vietnamese Yokumani-source was a decomposed fish protein.

Even a beef has to be kept, about one month in a storage for its meat start to decompose

and become tender by the bacteria and its own enzyme.

And to make a good Palma-ham needs to have very delicate fermentation process = if it’s

gone too far, the meat is “rotten” and start to give a bad smell.


But here I’m not showing fermented food, but just boiled Bracken. Yes, ubiquitous Bracken.

In the west, Bracken was classified to be a poisonous plant, but in Japan

everybody eat Bracken (Warabi / 蕨 ).

It may contain something = may be same extent of Spinach containing Oxalic Acid which

cause ulcer in the corner of the mouth if you eat a lot. ( Popeye must had one 😀 )

Unlike Spinach, eat 10 stems of Bracken once or twice a year wouldn’t cause any trouble.

As a matter of fact, non of the plant in the Fern family include Bracken has been used for

Herbal Medicine as they don’t have any potent chemical = despite of them on the Earth

hundreds of millions of years, they haven’t evolved to have even a flower, let alone a poison.

In the mountain shelter where I was a voluntary keeper, we collected 5 bin (80 cm tall) full

of Bracken to pickle in salt water, and served it to the guests all through the summer.

Naturally I eat as much amount everyday.  And a pickled Bracken was commonly sold at

shops as a local delicacy. —– In a kind of wisdom, traditionally it was boiled in ash water

though, I found it doesn’t need to be bothered.   (And I’m still here, live and kicking  😀 )

(A bitter tasted chemical seemed to be dissolved into brine or boiling water, and disappear)

Of cause, it has to be soft young shoot = the timing to get it would be crucial.

(This year, it came 2 weeks late though, colder region or mountain side may be even later)

Strangely, when I went to a park  (I wouldn’t say where, because in the strict term it might

be illegal = I never heard any English Nettle-Picker was ever prosecuted though,

I saw a news, Japanese was fined for picking Bracken = Racial matter ? )  where

I collect them every year,   I found somebody had already there. —– M m m ? ? ?

Did any Japanese come here ?   Or any English people started to eat them ?

To eat boiled  (5~7 Min’) Bracken, it has to be only with small amount of

Soy-source and Bonito fish shavings (Katsuo-bushi) to appreciate its

unique taste. (I think, they can be eaten just with Soy-source or even

with Mayonnaise but its taste might be too strong to settle with Bracken ) 

If you are interested in, you can try.

And enjoy natural taste of early summer. 🙂



7 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. RK Henderson said, on May 25, 2012 at 18:42

    My Zen teacher, a Westerner who sat in a Japanese monastery for twelve years, remembers nattou with great horror. She said they often had little but that to eat, as they were dependent on donations for their food. I’ve never eaten it, but it does sound daunting. And I like most foods, even ones that others hate. Perhaps you’re right; you have to be Japanese to like it.

    I have Chinese friends who find cheese disgusting. Now when I eat it, I can taste the rot too! But I still love it.


    Rusty Ring: Reflections of an Old-Timey Hermit

  2. yoshizen said, on May 25, 2012 at 19:10

    I’ve been wondering, why the westerner who can eat strong Danish Cheese or slimy Cream Cheese couldn’t
    eat Nattou. And the Chinese who can eat their Rotten Tofu, couldn’t eat Cheese. 😀

    A researcher said that the “familiar food” was imprinted to the baby when he was in the womb, through the
    chemical derived from each food, mother has eaten. So that, the baby was born, having the taste already fixed.
    This must be a built-in mechanism to prevent accidentally eat wrong food.


    • yoshizen said, on May 25, 2012 at 23:57

      While later, I suddenly realized about the matters of Nattou in the monastery where
      Robin’s teacher practiced.
      It was not the trouble of Nattou but the way of thinking was wrong.
      ” Nothing there but to eat Nattou” was pathetic. —– why they didn’t go out town
      to beg = what the meaning to be a Bhikkhu = beggar.
      Even to receive just a Radish (Daikon / 大根 ) or other vegetable, boil it or
      stair fry it and eat it with Miso, mixed with vinegar etc. there are hundred of the way
      to eat virtually cost nothing. They could have gone to a hill to collect many edible
      plants to make pickles, or go to sea side to pick sea-weed to make Tsukudani.
      If the Monk didn’t know how to live (I’m saying not a spiritual pretense but actually
      living the basic life) how they can talk about the life, let alone preach the others.
      —– or were they believing, they are living above the cloud ?

      Monk never produced even a single grain of rice = yet still are they expecting
      somebody else financing them to gain own enlightenment ? = what a fancy idea !
      If they are not good enough to convince the local people willing to help,
      how they could expect to receive an help from the Dharma.
      Your teacher should be very grateful, at least she had Nattou, on top of the rice to eat.
      (Don’t forget, on this moment, millions of the people are dying unable to eat even
      a single grain of corn.)

  3. bentehaarstad said, on May 28, 2012 at 00:31

    Interesting post, Yoshizen. I don’t know this blacken fern, but I have heard about another fern they eat in spring. I want to try and I found it, but too late I think, this year. And we do have some fermentation traditions here too. That is freshwater fish like trout left with a little bit of salt for some months. It has a bad smell and taste like heaven…

    • yoshizen said, on May 28, 2012 at 11:47

      I like your expression Bente “bad smell and taste like heaven” 🙂
      After all, all human being, we are having the more or less the same sense
      and the brain, where ever we are, = discover and gain the same wisdom !
      —– In fact, one of my friend photographer working for BBC told me that
      he met another photographer who went to a remote village of indigenous
      Mexican, and found the people there eating [fermented soy-bean] = sound
      exactly the same as Nattou. = they must discover it by chance.
      Instead to through away as rotten, but found it is yet another delicacy !

  4. fivereflections said, on June 2, 2012 at 06:05

    these look like the fiddleheads we collect in the Maine Wilderness! i like vinegar sprinkled on mine!

    hope all is well with you these days!

    David in Maine USA

    • yoshizen said, on June 2, 2012 at 07:28

      A Ha, So American eat them as well.
      I like the name Fiddle-head :-).

      Thank you very much David, I’m fine and busy running around.
      ( I’ve been working to help setting up (a kind of) art event in the
      past one week. —– I’m going to post a report it in a day or two.)

      Best Regard

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: