Japan is known for its affinity with seasonal products, particularly when it comes to food. In Japanese when something is in season and popular it is referred to 旬 (shun). Here are some springtime seasonal foods you'll find in Japan:
Bamboo Shoots (たけのこ)
Bamboo shoots or "takenoko" typically become available in Kyushu from March and become available in other prefectures from April. Freshness is important when it comes to bamboo shoots, as they become more bitter with time. You can boil them with the skin on (sometimes referred to as lye) then remove the skin and slice the shoot. After it is sliced you can eat it as is or use in in various recipes such as shrimp dumplings, bamboo pork stir-fry or braised bamboo shoots.
Spring Cabbage (春キャベツ)
Spring cabbage or "haru kyabetsu" are popular in Japan and are said to be the most delicious between March and May. Spring cabbage can be enjoyed raw, or can be used in recipes such as cabbage nibitashi, yakisoba or okonomiyaki.
Vegetable Flowers (菜の花)
The peak season for vegetable flowers or "nanohana" is from February to March. It is best bought and eaten before the flowers of the plant start to bloom. Nanohana can be boiled, pickled and be served in various salads.
Aralia Elata (タラの芽)
Aralia Elata or "taranoki" is an edible wild plant that grows on mountains throughout Japan and is usually harvested between April and June. It is important to eat them while they are fresh as they taste more bitter the dryer they becomes. It is usually eaten as tempura.
While strawberries or "ichigo" grow in winter they are super popular in spring too. Many cafes throughout Japan will incorporate strawberries into their dishes. Although they are typically expensive between December and March, from April you can find them in supermarkets slightly cheaper and discounted.
Dekopon is a hybrid satsuma orange between kiyomi and ponkan. It is seedless and sweet and can be enjoyed fresh or made into sauce and jam.
Loquats or "biwa" have been popular in Japan for a long time and can be enjoyed as is or made it into a jam.
Skipjack Tuna (カツオ)
Skipjack tuna or katsuo is available around March to May in southern Kyushu and during fall in southern Hokkaido. It can be eaten raw as tataki or sashimi or cooked (it is recommended that you fry it, not grill it as it can become very dry). It's also commonly fermented and shaved in flakes which can be used for dashi, a quintessential broth used in Japanese cuisine).
Sakura Shrimp (桜海老)
Spring brings the sakura (cherry blossoms) out on land and in the sea. Sakura shrimp or "sakura ebi" derives its name from its translucent pink skin. These shrimp are only caught in Suruga Bay in Shizuoka Prefecture from April To June. Sakura shimp is commonly eaten as sushi, dried or as tempura.
Firefly Squid (ホタルイカ)
Firefly squids or "hotaru ika" are characterized by their small size. March to April is the peak season to buy and eat them. You can eat them as sashimi but it is very rare to find them prepared this way. They are most commonly boiled or pickled.
About the author:
Hi I'm Anna, currently a 5th year JET (from Australia) working in Himeji. I love exploring Japan and finding new things to experience and try, particularly sweets!