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The Nokanzo shoot is yellow-green and has sword-shaped leaves that grow in opposite directions. Sansai, mountain vegetables tend to have a bitter taste that make them more difficult to cook and eat, however, Nokanzo offers a mild and tender sweet flavor without the acrid bitterness. Although the upper green leaves of Nokanzo are crisp, the white lower stem has a slimy texture that is similar to a green onion.
Nokanzo are available in the spring months.
The Nokanzo, scientificly known as Hemerocallis fulva is a young shoot of the day lily that is harvested when it is about three inches in length. It is also called Cao in Chinese, Cikapkina in Ainu language and Hemelokalo in Esperanto. It is a perennial plant that is a member of Xanthorrhoeaceae family.
Nokanzo are rich in iron, calcium, vitamin A, B and C. Eating large amounts of Nokanzo may cause hallucinations. They have also been used as a painkiller in China.
Nokanzo can be enjoyed raw or cooked. The sweetness of Nokanzois enhanced when they are cooked. They are often boiled quickly and dressed with vinegar and miso to create a dish known as Sumiso in Japan. Also they work well in steamed, fried, boiled and sautéed preparations. They can be a great addition to salads, sandwiches, stir-fries, casserole, soups and stews. Their flavor pairs well with oil, butter and cream.
Its scientific name, Hemerocallis fulva means one day of tawny yellow brown beauty in Greek.
The Nokanzo was originally brought to Japan as a medicinal herb from China. Soon after it spread and became a feral plant, growing wild in the mountains of Japan. There are three different types of edible day lilies available in Japan; the Honkanzo, an orange day lily, the Nokanzo, a day lily, and the Yabukanzo, a tawny day lily. Moreover, the Nokanzo is related to the Nikko day lily. There is an image of Sansai being difficult to find in the wild because they grow deep in the mountains. Unlike other Sansai, Nokanzo grow in human dwellings as well, so they can be accessed easily. They are harvested in Aomori prefecture, Yamagata prefecture and Nigata prefecture. In the 1600s, the first edible day lily, Hemerocallis fulva was imported to North America; they are common and widespread throughout North America and can be found from Canada through Florida as well as in California today.