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Long and thin the shape of Tsukushi is similar to that of asparagus, however the inside of its stem is hollow. Tsukushi are less than 4 inches in length and about 0.2 inches in width, its stems are jointed and capped with a cone that contain the spores of the plant. Their taste is mild and simple, except for the cones which are bitter. Harvest Tsukushi when they are brown and have yet to release their cone shaped head of spores. Once the spores are released the stalk turns green and develops a dry brittle texture and unappealing flavor.
Tsukushi are available from the late winter through the early summer months.
Tsukushi, also known as the Tsukushinbo, Horsetail, Shave grass, Bottle-brush, Paddock-pipes, Horse willow, Scouring rush, Toadpide and Pewterwort, is a member of the Equisetaceae family. Tsukushi is a non-flowering perennial plant and a close relative of the fern. Tsukushi are considered Sansi or edible wild vegetables in Japan.
Tsukushi contains mineral salts such as silica, magnesium, calcium and potassium and are believed to help promote bone health. They also are rich in the trace element silicon which is shown to help promote collagen production in the body. Large consumption of Tsukushi can be toxic because they contain thiaminase which has been show to deplete the body of vitamin B, however cooking them will destroy the enzyme that causes this to happen.
In Japan, Tsukushi are often added to egg and tempura dishes. They are also used to make Tsukudani (boiled in soy sauce) and Ohitashi (dipped in soy sauce). In addition, they can be used on top of steamed egg hotchpotch as a decoration as well as served alongside fish dishes. To cut their slightly bitter flavor, parboil them for three to five minutes prior to using. Choose the ones with heads that are tightly closed and have yet to spread their spores; opened up heads indicate that they are old. The rich mineral content of Tsukushi makes them perfect for adding to a hot bath or even making into a medicinal tea.
Tuskushi dates back to the carboniferous period and has grown wild since prehistoric times over three hundred million years ago. Tsukushi can be found growing in Asia, North America, Europe and the Middle East. Tsukushi were used as an herbal medicine in ancient Greek and Roman time and used to treat kidney problems, tuberculosis, ulcers and wounds as well as to stop bleeding. Tsukushi are known to grow wild not only in the field but on street corners as well. However care should be taken when harvesting Tsukushi as they are known to easily absorb heavy metals and chemicals from the area where they are grown.
Recipes that include Tsukushi. One is easiest, three is harder.
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