Friday, April 8, 2011

Bamboo Shoots in Hiding

Over the dam and through the woods and straight up the side of the mountain Echosquirrel and I traveled. We picked our way across the ridge top past some stink bush and last year's susuki grass and descended under a small grove of chestnut and out onto a bamboo-covered ravine.

We were in search of take-no-ko, bamboo shoots, edible delicacies which can only be harvested for a very short period in spring. It was a beautiful grove, with nicely spaced trees, their attractive, ringed trunks soaring up to the sky.

We sat listening to the wind rush through the leaves. Occasionally a couple of trunks would knock together. We sipped hot tea and munched on little sandwiches we had brought.

We were both excited. I had only ever harvested bamboo shoots once before and that was on a fluke — I stumbled upon one in the middle of the trail while out hiking back when I used to live in Eastern Japan.

For Echosquirrel it was her first time — and for her to go deep into the woods, some berry or mushroom or herb really should be produced. We had already harvested some sugina earlier in the day (see previous post) so at least we wouldn't go home empty-handed if we couldn't find any bamboo shoots.

Lunch over, we began carefully picking our way down the slope, inspecting the duff for little shoots pushing up through the soil.

That's an old wrapper around the base of a good-sized bamboo in the picture on the left. The young shoots' wrappers are closer to a straw yellow color.

We saw dozens of the wrappers littered across the forest floor. We also saw inoshishi shit. Piles and piles of it.

Inoshishi are the wild boars that live in the forest around here. They're very good at grubbing up roots and tubers and bamboo shoots — and they had done their work on the entire area.

We were late. But that's how it is sometimes.

Back up the steep ridge, resting again, I was reminded of this haiku by Yosa Buson:


fu ling hides underground
puffball doesn't materialize 
(Fu ling is the medicinal mushroom, Poria cocos, resembling a coconut, which grows underground. It's used for insomnia, invigorating the spleen and heart, among other things.) 

Buson went away empty-handed, just like we were to go.

Base of bamboo with runners
Sometimes you find what you're looking for — and in unbelievable numbers too — and sometimes you don't. It depends on timing, and luck, and knowing the terrain, and knowing what other critters are up to and when.

We're going back out this weekend — to an even deeper grove up an even steeper mountain. Check back in here in a couple of days and with any luck I'll have pictures of bamboo shoots in the basket and the pot.

Just need to outwit the boars and other bamboo shoot lovers.

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