You may never have thought of it, but traditional Japanese chopsticks can be considered wasteful. They are used for one single meal, and then discarded. If you think about that in bulk, you've got a lot of trash on your hands. According to RocketNews24, Nagoya-based Marushige Confectionery has developed edible chopsticks.
They look like regular, wooden chopsticks, but in fact can be eaten along with the rest of the food. This way, the chopsticks aren't thrown away after the meal is over, but eaten after. Pretty clever. So, how do they achieve the hardness that's enough to pick up food, but softness to be bitten into? The secret is that they are made of reeds, rather than actual wood.
The reeds are called igusa, and they're grown in Kumamoto Prefecture, which is on the southern island of Kyushu. Igusa was traditionally used in the making of Japanese floor mats, and applied in home building in other various ways. As the market continues to evolve, demand for the igusa material is dropping. I guess this new edible chopstick serves more than one purpose.It helps the igusa industry as well. As far as the flavor of this new edible chopstick, you might be wondering who would want to eat reeds that are used for floor mats.
Not too many, it seems. Japanese people don't usually consider igusa a food, which is understandable. Marushige describes them as being "tatami flavored," which apparently refers to a dried grass taste. Not the most appetizing thing. Two restaurants have agreed to field test the chopsticks, so we'll see how things turn out for them.
Most people like to end their meal with a dessert of some sort, so it's probably a fair assumption that if Marushige wants to sell a lot of these, they'll have to come up with some better-tasting ones. Keep an eye out for ice cream-flavored edible chopsticks in the near future. I expect something like that will enter the market sometime down the road.