Monday, December 12, 2011

butterbur shoots

We call these Fukinoto, and they are one of the first things to poke through the snow in the early spring. They are delicious when fried in airy tempura batter, or chopped fine and blended with miso paste. Like many edible wild plants, fukinoto have a slight bitterness that I enjoy. It's hard to associate the fukinoto with the tall-stemmed, huge-leafed butterbur leaves that replace the small flowery shoots later in the season.

From Wikipedia: The plants commonly referred to as Butterbur are found in the daisy family Asteraceae in the genus Petasites. They are mostly quite robust plants with thick, creeping underground rhizomes and large Rhubarb-like leaves during the growing season. Another common name for many species of this genus is Sweet Coltsfoot.

I painted this as an illustration for a story written by a friend, which explains why I didn't accompany the image with words as is usual for etegami. I hope to tell you more about this project later. : )


  1. How long until you can eat butterbur in Hokkaido? Are they cultivated or gathered wild? Lovely colours.

  2. Here in Hokkaido, we won't be seeing butterbur shoots till early April. They appear in my yard, here and there, but not in bunches. You can buy small packs of them at outrageous prices in city supermarkets in the very early spring, and then they disappear till the following spring. I've never heard of them being cultivated, but I'd have to do some research to be sure. I think they are gathered wild by people in the countryside who sell them to the grocery stores or supermarket chains. Like they do with lots of other edible wild vegetables that have seasonal significance here.

  3. Lovely illustration. Will look forward to hearing more about the project. Margie

  4. Ahhhggggghhhh!!!
    That's what I miss in Sydney (its aroma is so beautiful on dish) and your painting is wonderful!

  5. Lovely painting. There's lots of butterbur (perhaps adifferent species though?) along the Water of leith in Edinburgh. Its leaves used to be used to wrap butter

  6. @Crafty Green Poet, so *that's* the origin of the English name! When the leaves eventually replace these shoots, the long stalks are used as food. They may look a bit like rhubarb, but they don't taste anything like rhubarb. And the huge leaves really are useful for wrapping things. They feature fairly frequently in Ainu folklore.