TsukuBlog

A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

Foraging for Wild Fruit in Tsukuba- Akebi (あけび)

Akebi which have opened (naturally) and are ready for eating

By Avi Landau

 

One of the benefits (and great autumn pleasures) of living in the Japanese countryside is being able to pick as many akebi as you like – for free (they can cost a pretty penny at Tokyo department stores). Akebi grow on coniferous vines which flower in spring and bear fruit in fall. When ripe and ready for pickin’, they look like reddish-purple mangos which have been slit open with a blade.  This opening reveals the almost translucent, white flesh which contains the seeds. It is this part that can be eaten right under the tree. You twist the fruit off the vine, break it open at the slit and take the white jelly-like center into your mouth. Chew softly to enjoy its unique sweetness and texture, and spit out the pits.

Akebi in hand. I was making small talk with the woman who works  at the reception desk of one of Tsukuba`s community centers, and I after I had already said good-bye and started on my way, she called me back and gave me this tiny akebi she had picked that morning in her garden

Akebi in hand. I was making small talk with the woman who works at the reception desk of one of Tsukuba`s community centers, and I after I had already said good-bye and started on my way, she called me back and gave me this tiny akebi she had picked that morning in her garden

The skin of the akebi can also be eaten. In Tono, Iwate Prefecture, I have had akebi skin boiled with sugar as a delicious local food. There are several ways the skin is eaten around Japan, with the most common probably being frying  with miso.

This year, the akebi (a web search has revealed that the English name for this fruit is chocolate vine, if that means anything to you) are smaller than usual, but just as tasty. You can find them in Tsukuba’s fast disappearing woods, like those behind my house.

By the way there are two different sets of characters which can be used to write akebi. There is 通草, and 木通, though it is usually written in hiragana as あけび.

Happy hunting.

 Close-up of an akebi  - its "meat" looks just like a silk-worm.

Close-up of an akebi – its “meat”, delicately sweet and full of seeds, looks very much like a silk-worm just before it starts to spin its cocoon !

Akebi on sale at a Tokyo supermarket for 390 Yen each!

and at another supermarket for 498 Yen a shot!

 

An akebi tree bears its ripe fruit in Konda, Tsukuba

 

At Lala Garden`s Waku Waku Hiroba local produce shop- packed akebi on sale for 450 Yen

At Lala Garden`s Waku Waku Hiroba local produce shop- packed akebi on sale for 450 Yen



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