Spring is Here: Na no Hana (Brassica napus)

緑黄色野菜 (ryokuôshoku yasai): leafy greens, yellow-green vegetables high in beta-carotene

After a cold winter that was only matched in length by the irritatingly hot summer that preceded it, spring has finally come to Hokuriku. The supermarket is filled with spring vegetables, but the easiest and perhaps most inoffensive one (least bitter) to prepare is na no hana (菜の花).

Na no hana literally means vegetable flowers or flowers of greens. Wikipedia tells me that the English name is tenderstem broccoli or broccolini (which my linguist friend tells me is incorrect), and alc.co.jp gives me field mustards (much more apt). The scientific name is Brassica napus. The plant these leaves come from has the (unfortunate) name of rape blossoms, the yellow flowers that bloom all over Japan and from which rapeseed oil comes. Because broccoli/broccolini is a misnomer, na no hana doesn’t really resemble Western broccoli. Rather, it resembles the texture and flavor of other Asian greens like bok choy and komatsuna in that it’s like spinach, but less limp and more punchy.

This recipe takes about 10 minutes to make–super easy. The greens have a slight bite to them, which the ponzu sauce, a citrus-based soy sauce, complements. It’s nice as a side dish to a Japanese-style meal–I served it with brown rice, takenoko (bamboo shoot) miso soup, lemon sweet potatoes, and unohana (okara)–all of which will be posted here eventually. (I have quite the backlog of recipes to get through, including the rest of the Apple Chronicles.)

This is about 2 servings.

Na no Hana in Ponzu


Serves 4~6 as a side dish

Time

Preparation : 5-7 minutes

Cooking: 4 minutes

Total: ~10 minutes

Ingredients

1 bag of broccolini (about 2~3 cups) (na no hana, 菜の花)

~2 teaspoons of ponzu sauce, or to taste (ponzu, ポン酢)

Optional: ~1 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger (shôga, ショウガP

Equipment

A medium pot with a lid

A bowl full of cold water to use as a cold-water bath

A colander (mizu kiri bôru, 水きりボール; zaru, ざる)

Procedure

1. Wash greens well.  Pick over to remove any wilted leaves, and cut off the very end of the stems. If the greens are too long to fit in the pot, cut in half, but leave enough of the stem on the flowering part so the leaves and flowers don’t fall apart while cooking.

2. Bring water (enough to partially cover the leaves) to a boil in the pot. Place the greens in the pot; cover and cook at medium boil for three minutes. The greens will turn bright green.

3. After three minutes, remove the greens from the boiling water and set into a cold-water bath for about 1 minute to stop the cooking process and preserve the color of the greens.

4. Drain well. Pour ponzu over the greens; top with ginger if desired.

5. Serve hot or cold. I prefer not to reheat this and to eat the leftovers chilled. Best within 2-3 days of cooking in terms of maintaining texture, color, and flavor.

Note

The flowers of na no hana are edible, but please don’t pick rape blossoms in the wild and eat them.

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