There is perhaps nothing more rewarding for a chef than to get out into the field and secure the best ingredients possible: vegetables, dry goods, fish and seasonings. The early spring is especially exciting because the season for foraging wild plants officially begins.

Sansai — the Japanese name for native shoots, buds, stems, flowers and leaves — literally means "mountain vegetables" or "mountain greens." Sansai remain an important part of traditional Japanese cuisine — in fine-dining kaiseki restaurants, at izakaya pubs and at the family table.

Many of these vegetables are now cultivated and brought to market, but hardcore enthusiasts — myself included — would rather trudge out into these damp fields and gather the bounty for free. Several of the most important wild sansai greens are commonly found all over the world but are unfortunately regarded as weeds, especially by lawn-obsessed suburbanites. Rather than gather the bounty, they eradicate these "eyesores" that pop up in their front yards.