Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Korean vegetables

Perilla, sweet potatoes, cayenne hot peppers, Chinese cabbage (my sister-in-law, if I refer to anything as Chinese, Japanese or Asian, is quick to correct me and say that it is actually Korean, as in Korean chestnuts, Korean eggplant, Korean mustard and of course Korean bitter melons (though the later, she informed me, are not bitter at all but sweet melons. The Japanese, she reports 'no doubt grow a bitter melon but we don't.')

I also saw various mustards including 'Korean' giant red mustard, Korean onions and a short oblong orange winter squash that looks a lot like an orange delicata.

One point of confusion about the perilla or shiso, in Korean it is called deulkkae which translates as wild sesame, however it is actually not at all related to sesame.

Additionally, I can't help but pointing out are the weeds, or lack there of. Most gardens, small and large, are nearly weed free. Very similar to Australian gardens (in Australia though, the weed shortage, I'm told is because of the weak soils that make it difficult for many native 'weeds' to thrive). Here in Korea, its obviously because of the care given most gardens.

And then there are the chestnut trees. Yes, I know its off topic but I couldn't help but notice the 'Korean', if you will, chestnuts. The trees were growing native. with the nuts literally covering the forest floor.

The chestnuts started me think of what our forests must have been like before the blight that destroyed the American chestnut a century ago, (I'm sure my sister-in-law would allow the blight to be from the Chinese chestnut). The American chestnut when they were the dominate tree in our eastern forests must have dramatically changed the dynamics of our forest with the forest floor being covered with its fruit.

As my brother and I walked through the young forests everywhere you looked people would be out with bags harvesting the wild chestnuts.

One other point of interest is the use of the Korean herb that I gave out several weeks ago without really knowing its uses. In Korea it appears to be a staple in restaurants. There has been a plate of the leaves carefully put out in raw fish, shell fish, grilled beef and grilled pork restaurants. Its used as a wrap for the meal. You take one of the leaves in hand and place the fish (or grilled beef or grilled pork) on it along with the various side dishes and carefully fold it up and put the entire package into your mouth.



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