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Kogomi is small in size with a slender stem that tightly coils at one end into a round, disc-like shape, averaging 2-4 centimeters in diameter. Within the coil, there are many tiny, delicate, light green leaves and the bright green, smooth stem has a distinct groove hollowed out in the center. When found in the wild, Kogomi may have brown, scaly patches or sheaths covering the stems that can be easily removed prior to consumption. Kogomi has a bitter flavor that dissipates with cooking and is juicy, tender, and succulent with a notable crispness. The immature fern also has a fresh green and slightly nutty flavor that many liken to a mixture of asparagus, okra, spinach, and green beans.
Fresh Kogomi is available for a very short season in the spring.
Kogomi, botanically classified as Matteuccia struthiopteris, are small, immature, uncoiled fronds of a leafy fern that belong to the Onocleaceae family. Also known as Kogomu, Kagamu, Kakuma, and Fiddlehead fern, Kogomi is a variety of Ostrich fern that is found in the shady, damp forests of Japan. Only available for 2-4 weeks in the spring, Kogomi is considered a delicacy in Japan and is cooked as a vegetable, often flavored with dashi and mixed into soba noodle dishes.
Kogomi is a good source of iron, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, and beta-carotene. It also contains potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
Kogomi is toxic when raw and must be cooked prior to consumption. The coiled fronds can be blanched, lightly sautéed, and served with soy sauce, boiled and tossed into salads with a squeeze of lemon juice, or steamed and served in vegetable bowls with rice. Kogomi is also popularly blanched and fried as tempura, steamed and layered over pasta dishes with parmesan, or simmered in dashi and served with soba or udon noodles. In addition to fresh Kogomi, the fronds are blanched and frozen for extended use, available year-round in some specialty grocers. Kogomi pairs well with sesame, miso, garlic, hollandaise sauce, seafood such as scallops, shrimp, and fish, tomatoes, and goat cheese. The small fronds should be used immediately for best flavor, but they will keep up to one week when stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
In Japan, Kogomi is classified as one of the most popular sansei vegetables, which translates to “mountain vegetables” in English. These vegetables were foraged initially from the wild in Japan in the spring and offered bright, fresh flavors as a reprieve from the lack of greens during the winter months. Today Kogomi can also be found in home gardens, grown sustainably for the fronds, but it is also still foraged from the wild for a few short weeks and sold in small quantities at local markets for a high price. The tightly wound fronds are commonly used in shojin ryori, which is the traditional diet of Buddhist monks that consists of soy-based food and mountain vegetables. This diet is believed to help balance the body and mind using the rule of five, which is incorporating five flavors and five different colors into the dish.
Kogomi is an ostrich fern native to the wet forests of Japan and has been growing wild since ancient times. Found in nutrient-rich soils, other varieties of ostrich ferns can also be found in Europe, North America, and other parts of northeastern Asia, and are foraged from the wild and sold at local markets, specialty grocers, and select supermarkets.
Recipes that include Kogomi Ferns. One is easiest, three is harder.
|NHK World Japan||Tempura with Spring Shoots|