Gyoja Ninniku (Alpine Leek)

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One of the spring cash-crops in this area is Gyoja Ninniku, or Alpine Leek. While it grows wild, and is considered a wild mountain vegetable, most of what you will find here and in the stores are cultivated. We have some in one of our fields that were growing long before we moved here, but even if we didn’t there is no shortage left growing in abandoned fields up the valley.

It tastes like garlic, hence the ninniku (garlic) in the name. The first part of the name refers to the fact that it was either eaten by, or forbidden to be eaten by devotees of Shugendo, a religion where followers would practice by meditation and training in the mountains.

The two stories I have heard are that they would eat it when weak or lost and it would give them the strength to move on. And the other one is that they were forbidden to eat it because it would make them too genki or healthy and they would not be able to properly train.

Anyway, this is another one of the wonders of spring here, and the non-greenhoused crops are just starting to come out. The bulbs are edible, but we usually just eat the leaves, and once ours are full sized, Tomoe will most likely be making them into some great soy-cheese spreads for sale at Warashibe, or even gyoja-ninniku Jam.

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  1. hafiz says:

    Might be good dried as well (?) Sounds so interesting! Do you still have some more kaki? It was amazing. We will be in Kamakura next month. I would like to buy some more rice that maybe you could ship to Kamakura : ).

  2. Shannon says:

    Mmmmmm. Yummy. My mom has a recipe for great leek & potato soup.

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