Kashiwa leaves are inedible oak leaves to wrap kashiwa mochi, a mochi sweet rice cake stuffed with red beans, eaten on Children’s Day.
What Is Kashiwa (Oak) Leaves
Kashiwa leaves are used as a wrapper for kashiwa mochi, a Wagashi eaten on May 5th, Children’s Day (こどもの日 Kodomo no Hi). Children’s Day, also known as Tango no sekku (端午の節句) is a national holiday dedicated to praying for the health and happiness of boys, similar to Girls’ Day or Hina Matsuri (雛祭り) on March 3rd.
There is a symbolic meaning behind the leaves. Since oak trees don’t shed old leaves until new leaves grow, the Japanese consider oak trees as a symbol of the prosperity of one’s descendants. There are some Japanese families that use oak leaves as their family crest.
Why Oak Leaves
The leaves serve several purposes:
- Antibacterial Properties: The leaves contain a compound that has antibacterial properties. Before the age of refrigeration, the leaves prevented the growth of bacteria and helped to preserve the mochi.
- Moisture Retention: The leaves also prevent the mochi from drying out and becoming hard.
- Flavor and Aroma Enhancement: It also imparts fragrance and flavor to the mochi.
- Convenience in Eating: Wrapping the mochi in leaves makes it easier to eat by hand, as it can be sticky and messy.
Recipes Using Kashiwa Leaves
Where To Buy
You can find these leaves (dried or vacuumed packed) in Japanese grocery stores and this online store that ships worldwide.