Tag Archives: Tips

Vegetables Facts and Tips (6): Asparaguses

asparagus-varieties

Asparagus has been used from very early times as a vegetable and medicine, owing to its delicate flavour and diuretic properties. There is a recipe for cooking asparagus in the oldest surviving book of recipes, Apicius’s third century AD De re coquinaria, Book III. It is said that it was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, who ate it fresh when in season and dried the vegetable for use in winter.It lost its popularity in the Middle Ages but returned to favour in the seventeenth century.

Facts:
Season: They are at their best March~June in the Northern Hemisphere, but can be obtained all year round thanks to state-of-the-art greenhouse cultivation.
Beneficial elements: Carotene, Vitamin C and E, Vitmanins from the B group, Rutin, Vegetal fibers, Folic Acid, Potassium. The amino acid asparagine gets its name from the plant.
Asparagus rhizomes and root are used ethnomedically to treat urinary tract infections, as well as kidney and bladder stones.
Asparagus is also believed to have aphrodisiac properties (this belief is at least partially due to the phallic shape of the shoots).

Tips:
-Choose asparaguses with a clean cutting surface. No black spots should appear.
-The darker the colour, the better. As for white asparaguses, choses with a “wet cutting”
-When storing your asparaguses in the fridge, have them stand upright in a long narrow container with their foot wrapped in wet kitchen paper. Discard bent asparaguses on the supermarket stands.
-Choose green asparaguses with the smallest possible foliage along the stems and dark tips.
-When boiling them, either boil them stading upright inside a pasta mesh container, or absolutely flat in a sauce pan. Do not bend them.
-Asparaguses are best digested when lightly fried with oil.
-If Asparaguses cannot be obtained directly from the farmer, lightly peel but keep yop half as it is to preserve Vitamins.

Varieties:
Most popular varieties are shown in the picture above: White, Green and “wild-style” (apeelations vary!)

asparagus-wild

Asparaguses are abundant in the while, but they grow very quickly and get too hard for consumption.
The wild ones picked in their natural environment are my favourite as I fondly rememebr picking them up as a soldier in the South of France during our drills and cooking them in simple omelettes!

asparagus-violet

Violet asparaguse are very popular in any restaurants!

asparagus-mini

Mini-asparaguses are ever so popular in Japan thanks to their practical size.

uzu-41

Recipes are endless, but my favourite is the large green asparaguses and mozzarella gratin as prepared and served at Uzu Izakaya in Shizuoka City!

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Vegetables Facts and Tips (5): Yams


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satsuma-1

Yams or “Satsuma Imo” were first introduced to Japan in the rykyu Islands (Okinawa) in 1604 by the Chinese. It was then introduced in Kyushu in 1609, an area that grows 80% of the total Japanese production.

It has been recognized in this country fro a long time for both its nutritional and pharmaceutical qualities.

satsumabeni_haruka

There are over a hundred species in Japan, but the most popular edible ones (not the ones exclusively used for making shochu) have red skins and light yellow flesh.

satsumatanegashima

My personal favorite is the “Tanekoshima Gold Imo” grown in Taneko Island south of Kyushu. It has the particularity of being red when raw before chaning to a rich golden color when cooked. Among other varieties, the violet yams are getting increasingly popular.

yummy
Tanekoshima yam (deep yellow), “common yam” (light yellow) and Murasaki/Violet yam.

The Missus particularly likes to mix the three above as a cold salad with mayonnaise or cream-based dressing.

FACTS:
-Season: September to November
-Main elements: Carbohydrates, Carotene, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, vegetal fibers.
-Beneficial to digestion.
-Lose very little of its beneficial elements even after a long cooking.

TIPS:
-Choose specimens with nice color and a “fat/roundish” aspect!
-Plunge yam in cold water as soon as you have cut them. They will not lose their color!
-Boil, bake or steam long enough before taking skin off. Discard skin!

Vegetables Facts and Tips (4): Carrots


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carrot-1

Carrots are consumed everywhere in the World, raw or cooked in so many manners, including desserts, that you need a whole book to describe all the recipes! And you might have to come up with a special addenda leaflet to introduce all its varieties!

Now, people might have forgotten that this cousin of the spinach orignated from Afghanistan before it was first introduced in China and Europe (by the Dutch) in the 12th Century. Japan had to wait until the 16th Century before the Chinese brought it to the Island of the Rising Sun.

FACTS:

Some time ago carrots were not popular in Japan because of their strong taste characteristics, but the Japanese have come with sweeter and softer varieties:
carrot-kyo
“Kyo-Ninjin”, a variety developed in Kyoto, with a deep dark red colour and very sweet taste.

carrot-gosun
“Go-Sun Ninjin”, the most common in Japan.

carrot-sansu
“San-Sun Ninjin”, a smaller variety of the above.

carrot-daijyo
“Daijyo Ninjin”, a very long and thin variety very popular in Japanese restaurants! Great for sticks!

carrot-kinji
“Kinji Ninjin”, probably the most elegant of them all!

carrot-shim-yellow
“Kiiro Ninjin”, beautiful and very sweet!

carrot-mini
“Mini Ninjin”, so much fun!

carrot-leaves-vitaminc
Now, do not forget the leaves which contain an enormous amount of Vitamin C!

-Season: May to June, and October to Deecember in the Northern Hemisphere.
-Beneficial elements:
Carotenes
An absolute need for humans. Carotenes are more easily absorbed by the body systems when the carrots are eaten together with oil, dressing or “glace”.
Vitamin C, Potassium, Calcium.

TIPS:

Preservation: Carrots should not be kept inside too cold fridges. Protect them by wrapping them into newspaper “standing up”, or into cellophane paper if they are cut.
Choose specimen with a good constant colour and with a small stem core if you buy them with leaves already cut away.

Important: When you peel them, do so as thinly as possible as the majority of the carotenes lie just under the skin!

Vegetables Facts and Tips (3): Broccoli


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broccoli-1a

In a recent National Geographic Magazine survey, Broccoli was at the very top when considering nutrients beneficient to humans in our everyday food!

Vegans, Vegetarians and Omnivores, rejoice! Doctors, start moaning!
A cousin of cabbages and cauliflowers, the flowers are the mainly consumed part, but people forget that the stems are great, too (explained later)!

FACTS:
-Season: November to January and March to April in the Northern Hemisphere.
-Main elements:
Carotene, Vitamin C and Vitamin E in very large amounts. Together they combine as an elixir to fight ageing and stress.
Potassium
Iron, which helps increase red blood cells and control cholesterol.
Calcium
Fibers, which help digestion.
Sulforafan which helps fight poisonous intruders.

VARIETIES:

broccoli-2
Italian red broccoli

broccoli-romanesco
Broccoli Romanesco, a favourite of mine!

broccoli-colour
In Japan, a violet variety (bottom) is becoming popular, making for some great combinations with white and yellow cauliflower,

broccoli-dish
and other dishes!

TIPS:
-As I said above, the stem is not only edible, it is succulent, with a taste between avocadoes and asparaguses! Peel the skin, cut it in any shape you wish and boil it for a while in slightly salted water. let cool and use for salads, stews and gratins!
-Choose specimens with big and dense buds, shiny and fat stems. Check whether the cut at the stem looks fresh!
-After boiling in slightly salted water, plunge into cold water immediately. The colour will not change!
-Preservation: Wrap in wet paper towel, seal it inside a polyester rigid box and keep inside refrigerator’s chilled compartment away from light.
As it will change in contact with natural light, better to cut it, boil it, cool it, seal it inside vinyl pouches and freeze if you have too much of it!

Vegetables Facts and Tips (2): Tomatoes


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Tomatoes have laid on our tables for so long that we have almost forgotten they came from South America. The Spanish and the Portuguese ignored them. The British studied them. The French brought them to Europe under the name of “Love Apple”, a name still existing in Italy. So it is said,…

tomato-fruit
“Fruit Tomatoes”

This summer-maturing fruit can be bought all year round with the interesting consequence that tomatoes ripened in winter are sweeter than their summer cousins as they contain less water, earning themselves the name of “fruit tomatoes”, a great oxymoron, if there was one!

Thanks to consumers’ insatiable appetite for novelty, tomatoes are grown into all kinds of size, shape and colour.
Just to cite a few, the following are the most popular in Japan:

tomato-momotaro
“Momotaro Tomatoes”

-Momotaro (after the Japanese “Peach Boy” tale), which becomes “Fruit tomato” in winter.

tomato-midi
“Midi Tomatoes”

-Midi Tomato (sometimes called “Plum tomatoes”), a larger cousin of the “Mini tomato”, is very sweet and very high in nutrients. Its aroma has a particularly long life.

tomato-italian
“Italian tomatoes”

-Italian Tomato: mainly used for cooking, it may often come in a comparatively elongated shape.
It contains less water and reveals both large amounts of sweetness and acidity, making it very conducive to long cooking with the extra bonus of actually improving in taste upon heating.

tomato-mini
“Mini Tomatoes”

-Mini Tomato: one-bite sized, it is also called “Petit tomato”. It contains twice as many Vitamin C, and it is very rich in beneficient ingredients.

tomato-yellow-mini
“Yellow Mini Tomatoes”

-Yellow Mini Tomato: characteristic for a lot of sweetness and very little acidity. Very handy for children who dislike vegetables!

rubbins
“Ameera Rubbins”

-Ameera Rubbins: with its larger Ammeera tomato, it is grown exclusively (until now, but they are bound to expand beyond our borders!) in Shizuoka Prefecture. They are the sweetest of all, tasting like strawberries, and very firm, making them ideal for decoration, notwithstanding their nutrient value. The smallest variety called “Rubbins” is grown by only two farmers near Iwata City!

tomato-micromini
“Micro Mini Tomatoes”

-Micro Mini Tomatoes: increasingly popular, they are only 8~10 mm and look somewhat like redcurrants. Very tasty with a beautiful acidity, the Japanese use them not only in salads, but also as the final touch on a plate of sashimi!

FACTS:

-Season: All year round
-Main elements: Licopin (Ricopin), Vitamin C, B Vitamins, Potassium, Pectin, Luchin (Ruchin).
Licopin is a carotene variety particularly beneficial in fights against allergies and ageing. The Potassium and Vitamin C and Pectin help control cholesterol in blood.
Luchin reinforces capillary veins and arteries.
Recent researches in Germany and China have proven that tomatoes help control high blood pressure.
Who said that the Italians look healthier than everybody else? LOL

TIPS:

-Choose tomatoes with a deep colour and healthy strong skin!
-Preservation: before storing them into the vegetable compartment of your fridge, wrap themin newspaper or put them inside a vinyl bag, or even better, inside a rigid plastic sealed box.
-Peeling: better than boiling water, direct contact with a flame! Make a very shallow cut near the stem area, firmly stick a fork or thin skewer into the stem area, hold the tomato directly over the gas flame for a few seconds, then plunge it into cold water. Skin should come off very easily.

Vegetables Facts and Tips (1): Potatoes


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potatoes

This is the first of a series of articles on vegetables, which I hope will help my vegan and vegetarian (I’m not!) friends.
Incidentally、 nothing, pictures included, is copyrighted in my food blogs, so please feel free to use anything!

POTATOES

danshaku-potato
“Danshaku”

Potatoes were first introduced to Japan in 1910 by Baron Kawata from Great Britain/Ireland giving the name of “Danshaku/Baron” to the most commonly used potato in Japan, especially in croquettes and salads.

The biggest potato exporters to Japan are China and India, although more and more grown locally.
The varieties found in supermarkets are:

kitaakari-potato
“Kita Akari” used for mashed potatoes and croquettes,

mayqueen-potato
“May Queen” used in stews,

toyoshiro-potato
“Toyoshishiro” used for fried potatoes,

redandespotato
“Red Andes” used for croquettes and Pot au feu,

incanomezame-potato
“Inca No Mezame” used for stews.

Potatoes are available all year round, but are at their peak from February to May when new potatoes can be eaten whole!

FACT CARD:

-Season: All year round
-Main elements: carbohydrates (high energy), Vitamin C1, B1 (thanks to a large amount of natural starch in potatoes, the vitamin C will resist heating!), Potassium
-Preservation: Wrap potatoes inside newspaper and keep them in a dark, well-ventilated place away from the sunlight.

TIPS:

-Choose specimens well-rounded and with healthy skin. Avoid specimens with buds or of greenish colour (risks of diarrhea). Cut out all “dark spots”!
-To avoid a change of colour, wash potatoes in water after peeling or cutting.
-If you want to keep your potatoes for a while after boiling them, plunge them in (change it as many times as necessary) cold water until completely cooled down. They will not break or crumble when used later.
-After boiling cut potatoes, throw away water and keep heating them until they have lost a great part of their moisture. They will attain a crispy enough nature without resorting to deep-frying!