What is Namul?

The word Namul is difficult to define easily.
It is not exactly distinguished, but it also overlaps with vegetables and mushrooms.

Namul refers to vegetables, plants, and herbs, and also to cooking methods.
Koreans are also confused with the exact definition of Namul.

But what is certain is that Namul is a conceptual word that is used only in Korea.
I can’t translate it into a foreign language.

What is Namul?

I think this is the easiest way to explain Namul.
It refers to everything a person can eat among plants that a person did not grow himself.

In the old days, when there was not enough food, Koreans dug up and ate plants (vegetables) in the mountains and fields.
Naturally, this plant (vegetable) tasted bad, so various recipes were used.
Blanch, stir-fry, dry, or boil and eat with seasoning.
Therefore, the cooking method is so diverse and the cooking method varies depending on the type of Namul.

It can be said that Namul was created by accumulating Korean life experiences for survival.


The strength of Namul.

As there are various types of Namul, nutrients are also diverse.
In general, plant leaves and stem roots are rich in various vitamins and fiber.
In particular, the cooking method of Namul has significantly less destruction of nutrients because it is slightly heated or eaten raw than when fully cooked.

It would be nice to think of it as a salad easily.
I think there is a difference that the ingredients are just too random.
The taste is so diverse.

Distinguishing and types of Namul.

Namul can be largely divided into three categories.

The by-products of crops, Namul that you can grow, and the rest of the Namul.

By-products of crops

  • Sweet potato stem.
  • Bean leaf.
  • Sesame leaf
  • Pumpkin leaf
  • Red pepper leaf
  • Radish leaf
  • Garlic scape
  • Outer leaves of cabbage


  • Bracken
  • Bean sprouts
  • Green bean sprouts
  • Spinach
  • water parsley
  • Bomdong

Rest of Namul

  • Dallae (Wild chive)
  • Shepherd’s purse
  • Toothed ixeridium
  • Chwinamul
  • Angelica tree shoot
  • Balloon flower root
  • Bamboo shoot
  • Mugwort
  • Canola
  • Chard
  • Crown daisy
  • Parsnip
  • Amaranth

There are many other types besides this, but I will omit them.

Although the distinction between Namul that are grown and sold gradually increased, I tried to divide them like this.

Meaning of Namul

Herb has several meanings in Korea.

Economic poverty.

Now that Korea has achieved economic growth, this meaning has disappeared a lot.
Namul talked about economic poverty.
It would be understandable to think about not eating other foods and eating only Namul.

The newness of spring.

After winter, you can eat many Namuls in spring.
Withstanding the cold, each of these Namuls has a unique taste.
Koreans gain spring energy by eating these spring Namuls.

Jesa, Charye

Namul always appears in Jesa and Charye, which can be said to be rituals for Korean ancestors.
It is said that three-colored Namuls mean the past, present, and future.

Considering that other Namuls usually have an elongated shape, it also means that the ancestors should take all the bad things of the descendants by tying them together with the herbs.

Namul are disappearing.

Namul has two drawbacks.

It’s quite annoying to cook and eat.
It’s not a complicated recipe, but it’s not easy to wash first.
In particular, root types take a lot of time to even shake off the soil.
It is said that it takes a lot of work in Korean.

The second one goes bad quickly.
I think it would be okay to store the leftover herbs in the refrigerator, but it’s not.
It goes bad quickly, so you have to cook and eat it every time.

This is why Namul is included in Korean bibimbap.
Before it goes bad, put all Namul in the rice, add red pepper paste and mix it with Chamgireum.

Due to these two drawbacks of Namul, Namul restaurants are gradually disappearing.
However, there are still restaurants that sell Namul set Menu outside the city, but it is not easy to find anymore.

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