Seasonal treat: Spring greens

🐦Birds are singing.🕊
🌸Flowers are blooming.🌼
🦋Insects are buzzing around.🐝
🌱New leaves are sprouting on plants.🌿

It’s basically screaming in your face:

How else can you tell?

🤤Fresh spring greens (bom-namul 봄나물) are back!!💚

Young plants of edible mugwort (ssuk 쑥).

Side dishes featuring spring greens, e.g. Dol-namul, Dureup, Bangpung-namul, Dallae). Home made.

Traditional Korean food is characterized by turning seasonal and local ingredients into diverse, healthy and flavorful dishes. The abundance of side dishes (banchan 반찬), which consist mainly of 🥦vegetables, 🍄mushrooms and 🌿wild herbs, is a wonderful aspect of Korean cuisine and particularly accommodating to vegans, vegetarians and vegetable-lovers! 🤤💚🥕 And now, with spring greens in season, they are used to upgrade dishes with the special flavor of spring.🌱 Accordingly, you will notice how there are more fresh greens offered in grocery stores, on traditional markets, and in restaurants at this time of the year.

There exists quite a variety of edible greens, which are native to the Korean peninsula. Among the more common ones, you will find:

  • ssuk (쑥): The young leaves of Korean mugwort (Artemisia princeps) are harvested before the plant develops tough and stringy leaves. Its aroma is popular among certain people and rice cakes, bakery and beverages (e.g. tea or ssuk latte 쑥라떼) are flavored with it all year round.
  • chwi-namul (취나물): Various species from the family Asteraceae, e.g. 참취 (Aster scaber), 곰취 (Ligularia fischeri), 미역취 (Solidago japonica).
  • cham-namul (참나물): Pimpinella brachycarpa.
  • bangpung (방풍): The leaves of Peucedanum japonicum, which belongs to the same botanical family as carrot, parsnip and parsley, are consumed.
  • sebal-namul (세발나물) / gaet-namul 갯나물: The fine, thread-like leaves of this plant (Spergularia) are edible raw as well as blanched. They taste slightly salty.
  • dol-namul (돌나물 石上菜): Sedum samentosum.
  • dureup (두릅): The fresh shoots of the tree Aralia elata are edible after cooking and thus softening the thorns.
  • dallae (달래): Allium monanthum is a kind of small spring onion
  • sseumbagwi (씀바귀): The roots from a plant scientifically called Ixeridium dentatum are edible and, as the name implies, they taste quite bitter (slightly reminiscent of dandelion).

Prices for these greens vary by type, but they are generally quite affordable – often distinctly cheaper than common vegetables from Western cuisines such as spinach, lettuce or cabbage! Normally, you can buy a package in a supermarket or a ‘shovel full of greens’ at traditional Korean markets for something between 1000 KRW and 3000 KRW.

If you wonder how to eat Korean spring greens, there are innumerable recipes! In general, most of them can be turned into simple vegetable side dishes by blanching them in lightly salted water and then seasoning them according to personal preference. In addition to that, some can be eaten raw in combination with a flavorful dressing. Sebal-namul and dol-namul, for instance, are often combined with a sweet, sour and spicy sauce called cho-gochujang (초고추장). Other ideas on how to use Korean spring greens are adding them to soups and stews, making savory pancakes or using them as a topping in a bowl of mixed rice (Bibimbab 비빔밥).

During the rest of the year, you may encounter some of these greens in dried form as well. However, texture, flavor and aroma differ decisively from the taste of the fresh plants. So better don’t miss this opportunity and enjoy this seasonal treat as long as fresh spring greens are available over the next few weeks!

Wishing you a good spring with sunshine and fun exploring the various flavors of these local vegetables! 😊

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