Takenoko are bamboo shoots. We're in takenoko season right now. You take a special hoe and walk around in a bamboo forest until you step on the tip of the takenoko. The best and most tender takenoko are the ones that are barely visible. As they grow larger, they become tougher. You have to then dig around the takenoko, find where it attaches to the root network and chop it at the right angle to get it to come off easily. Then you shuck them. After shucking, a very important step is the aku nuki. Many vegetables, particularly takenoko have a very bitter taste that comes from impurities (alkaline solution and dissolved elements) which is called aku. Aku nuki (removing the aku) is typically done stewing the takenoko with komenuka (rice husk powder) and Japanese red chili peppers. The best takenoko is tender takenoko picked and immediately stewed, left over night in the water, then prepared with rice, stew or some other typical Japanese dish in the morning. Yum.
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