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Tonburi Land Caviar

March 23, 2013 by staff 

Tonburi Land Caviar, Bassia scoparia (synonym Kochia scoparia) is an annual shrub native to Eurasia. It has introduced populations in many parts of North America, where it is found in grassland, prairie, and desert shrub ecosystems. Its vernacular names include burningbush, ragweed, summer cypress, fireball, belvedere and Mexican firebrush, Mexican fireweed.It may be planted in almost any climate zone in early spring.

Mexican Firebrush (B. S. trichophylla) is a cultivar of B. scoparia that turns bright red in the fall. They easily self-seed and can become a weed if not controlled.

The seeds of Bassia scoparia are eaten as a food garnish called tonburi (とんぶり?) (Japanese). Its texture is similar to caviar, and it also is called “land caviar”, “field caviar” and “mountain caviar”. In Japan, tonburi is a delicacy (chinmi) of Akita prefecture. After harvesting the seeds are dried. To prepare them, the seeds are boiled and soaked in cold water for about a day, then rubbed by hand to remove the outer skin. The seeds are 1-2 mm in diameter, glossy with a black-green color.

Tonburi also is used in traditional Chinese medicine. It may prevent metabolic disorders such as hyperlipidemia, hypertension, obesity and atherosclerosis. In a study of mice fed a high-fat diet, an extract of tonburi did limit obesity. Bassia scoparia seeds contain momordin Ic, a triterpene saponin.

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