Sansai is edible wild plants that grows in the woods all over Japan. Most edible plants sprout in spring, and that makes people feel the coming of warm season. People who love to eat sansai often visit the woods to pick them, and cook them at home. However, there are restaurants that serve sansai too.
Before Japan grew economically, when many people lived in the countryside, sansai was the basic ingredients used for cooking, and helped to sustain a healthy diet. Nowadays, sansai is not much used as common ingredients for cooking, but is considered more as rural food.
The most well known sansai is takenoko, bamboo shoot, which can be easily found in bamboo woods. Takenoko cuisine is most eaten in spring when it is the best season to pick them. The way to cook takenoko is to boil or simmer with soy sauce based soup. The well known dish is called chikuzen-ni, which use ingredients such as chicken, carrot, burdock, lotus root, alongside with takenoko. Boiled takenoko in a pouch is also sold at supermarkets.
Fukinotou, butterbur flower stalk, is another kind of sansai which is popular. Tempura that uses fukinotou is cooked by covering it with flour and deep fry. It has a unique scent and slight bitterness, but that makes fukinotou tasteful. Fuki-miso is another tasteful food, which boils fukinotou and mixes the finely chopped fukinotou with fermented soy paste. It is preservable, and can be put on rice or other food as the way you like.
In rural areas, many different sanai can be picked, and they are represented as local speciality. There are also speciality restaurants that serve dishes such as sansai tempura, buck wheat noodles with boiled sansai, and seasoned rice with sansai.