Deep in a remote British Columbia valley, a prized Japanese vegetable grows wild, its carpet of tea plate-sized leaves a living testament to the internment of thousands of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War.
Fuki, or Japanese butterbur, is a perennial plant native to Japan with rhubarb-like stems that are popular cooked in stir fries or dashi, a kelp-based broth. First introduced by Japanese settlers in the early 20th century, by the 1930s, the vegetable was common in the gardens of Japanese Canadian families from Steveston to Prince Rupert.
During the Second World War, it became crucial: In 1942, racist federal policies dispossessed thousands of Japanese Canadians of their homes, boats, and property and forced them into remote internment camps. Fuki seeds and roots were one of the few items sympathetic—and usually white—former neighbors could mail or deliver to the camps without government interception.
“A lot of [interned] Japanese Canadians wrote back to their [former] white …