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Fukinoto: A Spring Delicacy

Let’s learn about fukinoto (Japanese butterbur), a delicate and slightly bitter mountain veggie marking springtime in Japanese cuisine.


Fukinoto: A Spring Delicacy

In early spring as the frost thaws, Japan comes alive with a vibrant culinary tradition centered around the delicate flavors of the season including sansai, mountain vegetables. While there are many types of sansai, one of my favorite is fukinoto also known as Japanese butterbur. Fukinoto is the petioles of the butterbur plant: they look like small green buds with fuzzy exteriors and taste earthy and bitter, kind of like artichokes or young bamboo shoots. Its fleeting availabililty means that here in the city, fukinoto can go for nearly 400~500yen ($5) for just 4 or 5 fukinoto. So when my friend told me she picked some in her mountainous neighborhood and wanted to send a box to me as a push gift (I had just given birth), I was more than happy to receive them!

How to Eat Fukinoto

Traditionally the buds are meticulously washed and boiled multiple times to remove their inherent bitterness. Personally I don’t mind the bitterness so I skip the boiling part. Once tenderized, they’re often enjoyed as tempura (battered and fried), in soups or as pickles, or stir fried with miso.

While my favorite way of eating fukinoto is battered with rice flour, I wanted to try something different so I sautéed fukinoto with olive oil, garlic, chili and white miso paste (the sweetness offsets the bitterness) and topped over pasta or polenta. 

fukinoto eat with meraki

Health Benefits

  • Antioxidant Properties: Contains compounds such as flavonoids and phenolic acids, which act as antioxidants, helping to neutralize harmful free radicals in the body and reduce oxidative stress.
  • Anti-inflammatory Effects: Contains anti-inflammatory properties, which may help alleviate symptoms associated with inflammation-related conditions such as arthritis and allergies.
  • Digestive Support: Traditionally used in Japanese folk medicine to aid digestion and alleviate gastrointestinal discomfort. 
  • Urinary Tract Health: Has diuretic properties, which may promote urinary tract health by increasing urine production and helping to flush out toxins from the body.
  • Migraine Management: Butterbur extract has also shown promise in clinical studies for its ability to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches, possibly due to its anti-inflammatory and vasodilatory effects.
  • Allergy Relief: Reduces symptoms of seasonal allergies, such as hay fever, by inhibiting the production of histamines.
  • Respiratory Health: Used historically in herbal medicine to relieve symptoms of coughs and respiratory ailments.
  • While fukinoto offers potential health benefits, it’s essential to consume them in moderation!