All recipes are for 2 servings unless noted. Oil is canola oil and salt is kosher salt.

2012-05-17

Warabi bracken prep

Parboiling or soaking in alkaline boiling water reduces bitterness and also neutralizes the carcinogenic substance in warabi. Traditionally, wood ash is used to make water alkaline. Baking soda is more widely used today: use only a small amount, otherwise the fibers get too soft and warabi becomes mushy.





<Ingredients>

Handful warabi bracken (250 g in photo)
1/2 tsp (0.5 g) - 1 tsp (3 g) baking soda (not in photo) or a handful of wood or straw ash (see note below)
2,000-3,000 cc boiling water (not in photo)


<Directions>
1.

Wash warabi, cut off stiff section toward the bottom, and remove tips (optional).

2.

Place in a heat-resistant container, and sprinkle baking soda.

3.

Pour boiling water, cover with several sheets of newspaper, and let cool overnight.


4.

Rinse. If taste is bitter, change water once or twice over the course of several hours. Keep in water in fridge.


<Notes>
  • The tips (containing spores) are where the carcinogenic substance (ptaquiloside) is concentrated. While it is neutralized during this preparation, some people prefer to remove the tips as an extra precaution.
  • If you have a large, thin-walled pot, you can boil water and put warabi in it, turn off the heat and soak overnight. Thick-walled pots retain too much heat and make warabi too soft.
  • For the amount of baking soda, 0.2% of boiling water is usually sufficient. The above proportion is much less than 0.2%, since I harvest bracken in our field -- when preparing freshly harvested warabi, use less baking soda.

  • If using wood or straw ash, you do not have to be careful about the amount to use, as it would not excessively soften warabi, unlike baking soda. The other processes are the same as when using baking soda.
  • I don't know why newspaper is used as a cover. It seems to be experience-based knowledge of warabi producers and those whose routine diet includes warabi. My mom recently was told by an old lady that baking soda is not needed if you use a newspaper cover, although the color does not get quite as bright (baking soda helps to dissolve polyphenol in warabi, making it brighter instead of tinted).

2 comments:

Vera M said...

Thank you for great instructions! I bought warabi in local supermarket out of curiosity. I realize now--gotta be careful with mountain vegetables!

neco said...

Sometimes warabi is cooked without prep, especially when cooking it with oil, such as tempura. But I usually use prepped warabi for tempura too, because without prep warabi tastes quite bitter. Some people say the poisonous substance in warabi does not tolerate heat, so cooking might be enough precaution.