As food shortages deepened in Korea by 1943, Imperial propagandists encouraged Koreans to eat wild grasses as meat substitutes, which they insisted were nutritionally comparable to meat, and follow food quack Horace Fletcher’s advice to chew food 30 times to make up for the lack of food quantity



Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) July 18, 1943

The way to solve the food problem

Wild grasses are also nutritious

They can become a staple food with just a little ingenuity

By Taiji Toyoyama, lecturer at Sookmyung Women’s College

To build a life fighting decisive battles, we depend on the ingenuity of the housewife. Even food problems can be solved in a moment by making the most of everything and devising ways to use what we have. Weeds growing in the mountains and fields can be a great substitute for staple foods. What kinds of wild edible weeds are there? What are these wild edible plants like, and how should they be prepared to be eaten? We ask nutritionist and lecturer at Sookmyung Women’s College, Mr. Taiji Toyoyama.

We must win the war, no matter how much suffering we must endure, but to win this war, we must also have a strong and indomitable physical strength. There are many things that have the greatest impact on physical strength, but we must first consider the food problem. The general public is saying that food is very scarce today, but is it really? It is true that, from the point of view of the people’s stomachs, food seems to be scarce, but I must say that we should be thankful that both the rich and the lower classes are able to eat the same way nowadays due to the rationing system. The mere thought of having less food in the world makes us feel hungry and insecure to a certain extent, which is a selfish thing.

How will this affect our health? We must carefully examine our lives and reflect on what measures we should take to deal with this. In fact, our lives have not yet reached the point where we are ready to fight decisive battles, and we are still living wasteful lives.

First of all, we wash rice too much, and this wastes important nutrients. Many housewives are generally indifferent to this and do not find it strange, and many are still doing it. What is regrettable is that when we cook rice, we sometimes turn up the heat too high, causing us to rinse away the starchy solution and throw away important nutrients by the slightest carelessness.

Chewing is the first step in the digestive process. Chewing is the first stage of digestion, so it is natural that we digest more when we chew well. We usually swallow food after a few chews without chewing enough, but this is not the way to obtain proper nutrition.

Horace Fletcher saved one-fifth of his food by chewing 72 times. We need to chew more than 30 times to make up for the lack of nutrition in quantity. This will solve the problem of quantity with a little attention on our part, but we must also think about the problem of food quality.

Some city dwellers complain about the lack of beef, but 80% of the Korean population lives without eating meat. Most of them are farmers, but if there is anyone complaining about the lack of meat in this emergency, he or she should consider the farmers who are living without eating meat at all. What then, do these farmers eat?

They mainly eat green vegetables. Chestnuts, barley, miso, and greens are their staple foods throughout the year. Among the greens are wild grasses that city dwellers throw away without a second thought. In fact, these wild grasses have become a meat substitute for the farmers. When we look at the nutritional situation of these people, it is at least comparable to that of city dwellers.

City dwellers have conventionally used green vegetables in hot pots, mixed stir-fries, or as main dishes. However, these greens do not necessarily have to be eaten with rice. They can also be used as an appropriate staple food or substitute food due to the shortage of grains.

There are many ways to use wild grasses as a staple food, but I would like to tell the public that “boiled vegetable dumplings” can be eaten as an excellent staple food. With this little ingenuity, wild grasses can be eaten as a staple food at least once a day. Boiled vegetable dumplings can also be found in the cities and suburbs these days.

Edible wild grasses such as Chenopodium album var. centrorubrum, Amaranthus tricolor, Portulaca oleracea, Commelina communis, and Plantago asiatica are gathered, boiled, soaked in water for about 30 minutes, drained, and chopped into small pieces. Mix in an appropriate amount of condiments such as green onions, chili peppers, sesame seeds, salt, pepper, cooking oil, etc. Then, measure out grain flour amounting to one-fifth of the size of the mixture, add half of the flour into the mixture, roll the mixture into small dumplings, then dip the dumplings into the remaining flour and put them into boiling water. Take out the dumplings when they float to the surface in the boiling water. If soy sauce is added to the dumplings, they make fine boiled vegetable dumplings.

Various other wild grasses can be used to make staple and substitute foods, but the most important thing is for housewives to be willing to gather wild grasses, cook them in creative ways, and make them into staple foods.

Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) July 18, 1943

Eat wild grasses too

Wild grasses cooking class at Sookmyung Women’s College

To encourage housewives to be more creative and creative in their kitchens, the Seoul city government, in cooperation with the Seoul Branch of the Patriotic Women’s Association, held a “cooking class for wild edible grasses” at the auditorium of Sookmyung Women’s College at 2 p.m. on July 17th. Under the guidance of Mr. Taiji Toyoyama, a lecturer and nutritionist at Sookmyung Women’s College, 250 executives of the Patriotic Women’s Association cooked wild edible grasses. After everyone enjoyed the dishes that they had prepared by the end of their class, and having become more aware of the future uses of wild grasses, the event ended at 4 p.m.

[Photo: Wild grasses cooking class].

(End of Translation)


On a personal note, as a Japanese person, this article reminded me of my grandparents’ experiences in mainland Japan during World War II. They also went through severe food shortages and learned what kinds of wild plants were edible. Later on, I met some Chinese friends who experienced the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, and they showed me their deep knowledge of edible wild plants. I find it sad that North Koreans still forage for edible wild plants to survive.

Although Horace Fletcher was an American, the Imperial Japanese regime adopted his quack chewing ideas as their own and spread them throughout Imperial Japan. Educated in the Imperial Japanese educational system, my grandparents also believed that chewing food long enough would extract more nutrition, so I remember them emphasizing the importance of proper chewing, which my parents also parroted.


京城日報 1943年7月18日

















京城日報 1943年7月18日