Mukago translates as “Snack-gift of the gods”. Well, not really, but it should.
I actually couldn’t find an English translation, so I will name it “little baby potatoes that grow in the vines of yama-imo (mountain potatoe)”. They grow wild all over the place and it’s hard to step foot outside this time of year without feeling the urge to fill your pockets with the abundant mukago.
Really just a tiny potatoe, Mukago are tasty fried and salted, boiled, cooked with rice, and can even be eaten raw. They keep extremely well during winter so long as you can keep the mold away, so we are planning to gather up lots which should save some yen lost on my potato-chip addiction.
It is unfortunate and mind-boggling as to why few, if any, of the locals enjoy this free, healthy, and abundant snack. In fact, the mukago pictured here were gathered not from the wild, but from a neighbor’s garden where she is growing the “mountain potato”, and considers the mukago a nuisance.
Wether from cultivated row, or a wild mountain vine, mukago can be incredibly easy or incredibly difficult to harvest. Its easy if you have an umbrella or sheet to place under the bush, as they are extremely sensitive and fall off at the slightest touch or movement of the vine. Without something to catch them though, it becomes a difficult chore of searching through the underbrush to find all the fallen taters.
Each year I tell myself that I will wake up early each morning in Autumn, and gather mukago for sale at the local veggie stand where a small bag can fetch 500 yen ($5) despite the fact that one can stand at the cashier and probably see thousands of yen worth of wild mukago growing in vines across the street. There is probably 80,000 yen worth of mukago in the photo above, and while I know it makes more financial sense to gather and sell them, then spend a small portion of the earnings cheap potato chips, each year I end up eating them myself instead.