Edible grass, national food of antiquity

August 21, 2022

Edible grass is food favoured by the Koreans. They eat edible plants, tree leaves and other greens raw or by scalding and seasoning them.

Edible greens include herbs, wild vegetables, seaweeds and bean and mung-bean sprouts.

The Koreans have effectively processed different kinds of edible grass from mountains, fields and sea to use them as side dishes since olden times.

There are many historical records telling that they had used them in their dietary life since the period of Ancient Joson.

Traditional processing methods largely consist of three kinds: salad, boiled and dried vegetables.

The salad is made by seasoning fresh and raw vegetables or edible grass with soy sauce mixed with vinegar, sesame and pine-nut meal, and others, vinegared red pepper paste, mustard and others after cleaning materials. The materials mainly included radish, cucumber, bok choy, lettuce and broad bellflower.

The boiled grass dishes are made by seasoning the materials with spices after slightly scalding, boiling, steaming or frying them to meet their characteristics.

Spinach, crown daisy, parsley, anise, Codonopsis lanceolata, Atractylodes japonica, pumpkin, pepper leaves, bracken and mushroom were mostly used as materials for such dishes.

Dried vegetables are also fried to make dishes called old edible grass.

There are many contents related to old edible grass in historical books. Tongguksesigi calls different kinds of dried vegetables and stored vegetables old edible grass, while Haedongjukji says that you would not contract diseases for a year if you eat old edible grass.

Pyongyangji also says that old edible grass includes red pepper leaves, flowering fern and bracken, and is called black edible grass. According to it, if you eat it with boiled glutinous rice on the morning of Jongwoldaeborum, or fifteenth day of the first month by lunar calendar, you will be healthy throughout the year.

This tells that dried greens are good for health and shows the habit of the Koreans who gathered vegetables and edible herbs in the right season and used them as side dishes in winter.

The edible grass with a long history is still widely used as material for side dishes in the dietary life of the Koreans.


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