I have two Sansho trees. I bought one of them more than ten years ago when it was only 1 foot tall. I planted it in the flower bed. Now it has grown to 8 feet tall. I bought the other one from one of my cooking students some years ago. I still keep it in a terra cotta pot and place it just outside of my kitchen. This convenient location allows me to pick the leaves whenever I need them.
The trees are a little bit different. One is more masculine than the other. In early spring, it starts to sprout. By mid April it has gentle pale color leaves, which are best to use. By May, I see yellow flowers.
In the Tanba region in Japan, I found a Sansho Hana Tsukudani, which you can eat by sprinkling it on top of rice. It has a tangy, fragrant flavor, which helps you appreciate the crop as well as the season. Early summer, you will start seeing the crop as small as capers. Yes, indeed, I feel Sansho is a Japanese caper, although it does not grow as big as caper berries.
Sansho is just incredible. Spring to Summer, Sansho can be enjoyed in different stages. The young leaves are frequently used as garnish for many dishes. Of course, they can be eaten since they are herbs. Sansho flowers and pods are cooked together with meat, fish, Konbu, etc. One of my signature dishes is duck with Sansho sauce. Sansho kobu is widely used as a condiment. As a native Japanese, when I eat a simple breakfast, I crave for some Sansho kobu as well as Takuwan pickles to eat with rice. There is a well known Konbu shop in Kyoto called Itsutsuji. I have tried many Shinise stores but I like this one the best.
Talking about the Konbu, I became acquainted with Konbu shop owners in Kanazawa during my recent trip to Japan. They have such a nice store and I had fun shopping their products. You can have a nice lunch from their daily selected menu all related to Konbu.
I picked some Sansho pods this afternoon. In spite of such a small crop, I am going to brine them so I can use them for Sansho beef or something like that. It is similar to green peppercorn. I will see if I can make some nice Sansho sauce. Steak with Sansho peppercorn sauce.