Hanamaki, Iwate. Photo: Quinlan Faris

Tara-no-me (pictured above) are not unique to Tohoku, but they are certainly abundant there in the spring. Best enjoyed (in my opinion) as tempura, the leafy parts are just as good as the juicy bottom, which tastes almost like an artichoke. The tara-no-me are the shoots growing off branches of Japanese angelica trees. Caution is advised when picking them though, as the trees are covered in sharp thorns. Bloody fingers await the incautious.

If you’re out on country roads up north, you may see a makeshift hut by the side of the road with a handwritten sign offering little plastic bags of spring’s bounty for 100 yen each.

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