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myoga



ah, so you know of my predilection for weeds as food, and apparently i've stumbled upon a pretty good one here: zingiber mioga roscoe, a wild japanese ginger. found in the woodlands in japan, it is cultivated in australia and new zealand for food, in the united states as a garden ornamental, and pretty much considered an invasive scourge everywhere else. myoga, as the young ginger shoots are called, are prized for their delicate ginger flavour and crisp texture. also, the new flowers can be eaten, but the older rhizomes and more mature parts of the plant are toxic. in fact, the whole plant is so toxic it's carcinogenic. so think twice about that myoga binge-out party you were just planning!

myoga x-section

i first tasted myoga at hirozen, my favourite japanese restaurant in los angeles. it was in the middle of one of those extraordinary omakase meals, where chef starts rummaging around in the back of the refrigerator for something to plonk in front of me. i had no idea what it was, and the first bite was surprising, yet familiar. it has the delicate crunch of a fresh water chestnut or the heart of very young sugar cane, and the taste is very faintly but very recognizably ginger. it was served as sushi, and that is how i prefer it now, simply sliced on top of lightly vinegared rice. delicately sweet, delicately sour, and refreshing.

9 comments:

Thanks Santos! I had never seen or heard of ginger shoots and wild ginger before. Sounds like eating wild ginger can be as tricky as eating wild mushrooms!

Hey Santos, I think I have seen ginger shoots before but never really had the time to have a look at it and I had never eaten it before. Now that I know what it is and can imagine what it taste like, I think it's wonderful prepared the way you did. I will for sure now give this a try (I have a long list of things to try now but I'll get to it eventually).

hey santos,

I didn't know that these little shooties are carcinogenic... I am also embarassed to confess that I didn't even know they were in ginger family. But I do know that they say eating too much of myoga would make you forgetful... (I've never tried to prove it myself. though).

Hi santos,
I love myoga tempra so much. When eating them raw, I slice them and leave in water a little while, drain, then eat them with sumiso dressing. So tasty!

hi chika! i keep meaning to respond to your comment, but i keep forgetting...oh no!

hi obachan! tempura sounds great, i'll have to try that!

Hi Santos,

Can you share a reference about myoga being carcinogenic?

I am thinking of growing one and wondering if that's a good idea ;)

hi go! i think the actual carcinogen in myoga is Aristolochic acid, which is toxic to rats.

my actual source was a japanese gardener friend of my mother's; apparently, he knew of the toxicity in older plants from foraging in the forest in his prefecture (sorry, don't remember which one--i don't think he ever said anyone died, though). this link also has some information about zingiber mioga's (myoga) toxicity and a cited source. there some references to a carcinogenicity study done in 1982 with bad news for inbred ACI female rats, and one about the cytotoxicity constituents in it, but i don't know of any sites that have first-hand experience with its toxicity in real life or gardening experiences. hope this helps.

Seconding the wonders of myoga - and of Hirozen, also our favorite Japanese restaurant, in LA or anywhere else, despite its humble appearance from the street. His omakase is out of this world, truly a work of art.

hello mysterious Mister E, huzzah! another hirozen fan. hirozen is one of those places where i invariably end up trying something i've never eaten before, and subsequently discover that chef obayashi-san's preparation is the one i prefer. i love everything about the place (except the parking).