Ingredients, dishes and drinks from Japan by Ad Blankestijn

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Japanese spikenard. Aralia cordata. うど、独活。

A plant of which the leaves and stalks are eaten. It grows up to 2-3 meters in height and is found on the slopes of wooded embankments. In summer, small white flowers appear. The stems are soft, which gave rise to the proverb "udo no taiboku," "a large udo-tree," meaning something useless, as the udo tree is too soft to use although very large.

Udo is both gathered from the wild (in which case it belongs to the sansai category) and cultivated. Wild udo has a stronger flavor. The taste of the stalks somewhat resembles asparagus. It is used in miso soup and other soups, vegetable salads, vinegared dishes, and can also be eaten raw.

[Photo from Japanese Wikipedia]