When I was a child, my grandma used to buy bunches of hot pepper plants with roots still attached at a farmers’ market every summer. I helped her to pluck the leaves and fruit separately, and she made tsukudani using them. Tsukudani is preserved food simmered down with soy sauce.
Even though the tsukudani was a little spicy for a child, I loved to eat it with hot steamy white rice. But since my grandma passed away over ten years ago, no one made it. Inconveniently, I started to crave for it recently in the United States. As it is not so common food even in Japan, it was impossible to buy it at Japanese grocery stores in NY.
I decided to grow Japanese hot pepper plants. It was spring of last year. After failures and experiments, I was able to successfully grow 10 Japanese hot pepper plants at my community garden plot this year. I uprooted them in mid August, and plucked the leaves and fruits, as I did when I was a child.
Even though I had 10 plants, finished tsukudani was just a handful, as the soft tender leaves were stewed down significantly. Still, slightly bitter and hot flavor of my childhood made me so happy.
I used a Japanese hot pepper variety called yatsufusa for this tsukudani. However, I realized that any kind of hot pepper leaves should be able to use for this purpose. If you are growing hot peppers, don’t waste the perfectly good leaves. You can eat them deliciously.
In this recipe, only a few peppers are used. Leftovers can be frozen, if they are green. If they are red, dry them and crush to use as red pepper flakes.
Reference site (Japanese): http://www.pref.kanagawa.jp/cnt/f450009/p580868.html