“Taranome buds are fire right now.”
We don’t expect you to know what that sentence means. Let us explain.
It’s from Rob Rubba, the chef at the newly Michelin-starred Oyster Oyster, a cutting-edge, mostly vegetable restaurant (besides the eponymous bivalve molluscs in its calling card). Rubba will find out in the coming weeks if his Washington, DC spot will earn him a James Beard award, too, for Best New Restaurant. Until then, Rubba has his head in the weeds. Literally.
It’s spring and that means everything is new. Again. Kind of. Maybe. Does this spring feel different? There’s a sense of joy as the weather warms, but these days, we never know what variant will have us retreating.
But the sun doesn’t know any of that. The rain still floods the land, bringing all the green up to the surface. And so whatever us humans are fearing or ignoring, taranome buds will thrive, regardless.
Taranome are young buds of the Japanese angelica tree, and which Rubba says are “like an asparagus and artichoke hybrid in flavor.” He adds they are well equipped to be turned into tempura.
Is it that after a drab sun choked-soaked winter we’re more attuned to all the new chlorophyll-filled bits?
Is that why ramp season has been so blown out of proportion that it’s now a cliche—in some food-obsessed circles in the Mid Atlantic, that is.
The signs of spring are not just Tiffany-hued eggs and screaming children on playgrounds, but nasturtiums in the garden—and pickled on the plate.
There is a certain intrigue on what will be the green of the moment. Rubba is also seeing knotweed on menus, which he describes as akin to a lemony rhubarb.
Nevin Martell, a food writer and amatuer forager, has of course sleuthed all of the mysterious morrell hideouts, but this spring he has eyes for garlic mustard and baby spruce cones.
Baby spruce cones, as you of course know, are often made into a syrup or jam, says Martell. Or, they can be infused into vinegars.
“Spring bamboo goes in and out of style and is slightly under utilized,” says Andrew Skala, the executive chef at CUT by Wolfgang Puck at Rosewood Washington, DC. Though CUTs are known for their impressive array of steaks, Skala takes a thoroughly modern approach to his menu development and layers in greenery like celtuce and wild watercress. Because so much of what pops from the ground is ephemeral by its nature, CUT’s kitchen is a study in fermentation experimentations: turmeric sambal, fermented jalapeño condiment, ramp top kimchi.
Though shipped from California, green almonds are having a moment on the opposite coast. Brittanny Anderson of Richmond, Virginia’s Brenner Pass pickles the young nuts and serves them as a garnish on a chicken liver mousse matafan. She says they have a “vegetal undertone,” but remain fruity and sweet.
“It’s always a rush to get the spring stuff in and on the menu as soon as possible,” says Anderson, because after a bummer of a winter, guests are ready for fresh new things. “It’s stressful, but I love the ingredients.”
Who knows how this spring and summer will unfold, but at least we’ll have taranome buds. They are fire.
It was an honor to witness the remembrance of my dear friend and fashion industry icon.