Japanese Vegetables 1~6

1) BURDOCK ROOT/GOBOU/牛蒡

Burdock root, greater burdock or edible burdock root is called “gobou/牛蒡” in Japanese.
Its Latin name is Arctium lappa.

Although it is a root vegetable with great nutritious and even medical properties, it is commonly eaten only in Japan and Taiwan.

This species is native to the temperate regions of the old world, from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean, and from the British Isles through Russia, and the Middle East to China and Japan, including India.

It is naturalized almost everywhere and is usually found in disturbed areas, especially in soil rich in nitrogen. It is commonly cultivated in Japan.

It prefers a fresh, worked soil, rich in humus, and should be positioned in full sunlight. Burdock is very reactive to nitrogen fertilizer. Propagation is achieved through sowing the seeds midsummer. The harvest occurs three to four months after the seeding until late autumn, when the roots become too fibrous.
In shizuoka it is more and more cultivated in organic fashion with natural/organic fertilizer and no pesticides.

Greater burdock was used during the Middle Ages as a vegetable, but now it is rarely used, with the exception of Japan where it is called gobō (牛蒡 or ゴボウ), Taiwan (牛蒡), Korea where it is called ueong (우엉), Italy, Brazil and Portugal, where it is known as bardana. Plants are cultivated for their slender roots, which can grow about 1 meter long and 2 cm across.

Immature flower stalks may also be harvested in late spring, before flowers appear. The taste resembles that of artichoke, to which the burdock is related.

The root is very crisp and has a sweet, mild, and pungent flavor with a little muddy harshness that can be reduced by soaking julienned/shredded roots in water for five to ten minutes. The harshness shows excellent harmonization with pork in miso soup (tonjiru) and takikomi gohan (a Japanese-style pilaf).

A popular Japanese dish is kinpira gobō, julienned or shredded burdock root and carrot, braised with soy sauce, sugar, mirin and/or sake, and sesame oil. Another is burdock makizushi (rolled sushi filled with pickled burdock root; the burdock root is often artificially colored orange to resemble a carrot). In Kyoto, gobō can also be found as a snack food similar to potato chips. The root is eaten cooked and the young sprout can be eaten just like asparagus. Gobo is also used in tempura.

Apart of its obvious culinary value, it is also valuable for its high content in dietary fibers and beneficiary nutrients.
It has been utilized as a medicinal plant with diuretic, diaphoretic, and blood purifying capabilities. The Japanese have also recognized it to prevent cancer and combat diabetes.

FACTS:

-Season (in Japan): November to January and April to May

-Analytic data (as per 100g):

Energy: 65 kcal
Water: 81.7 g
Protein: 1.8 g
Carbohydrates: 15.4 g
Ash: 0.9 g

Inorganic qualities:
Potassium: 320 mg
Calcium: 46 mg
Magnesium: 54 mg
Phosphorus: 62 mg
Iron: 0,7 mg
Zinc: 0.8 mg

Vitamins:
B1: 0.05 mg
B6: 0.10 mg

Dietary fibers: 5.7 g

HEALTH FACTS:

-Combined with seaweed (wakame), or celery, or enoki mushroom, or konnyaku, helps prevent high blood pressure and blood vessels hardening, helps with hair health and recovery from constipation.
-Combined with dried daikon, or shiitake mushrooms, or celery, or turnips, helps prevent cancer, helps fotiify stomach, and increases skin qulaity.
-Combined with hijiki sweet seaweed, or tofu, or bamboo shoots, or agar agar, helps reduce blood cholesterol and general diets.
-Combined with whole rice (genmai), or oatmeal, or corn flakes, helps prevent diabetes, helps combat obesity and helps prevent blood vessels hardening.

VARIETIES:

Common burdock/gobou/牛蒡

Oura Gobou/大浦ごぼう (on the left), a very thick variety, which reaches 10cm in diameter for 1 meter in length.

Yama Gobou/山gpぼう, a thinner and shorter variety.

Super Risou Gobou/スーパー理想ごぼう, a75 cm long and thin variety with a smooth skin.

TIPS
Do not peel before cooking as the skins contain a lot of nutrients.
Just brush the dirt away under clear running water
Can be easily preserved frozen once cooked

GASTRONOMY

Steamed and seasone burdock root

Simmered burdock appetizer

“Kinpira” burdock, thinly cut and fried with sake, soy sauce, mirin and chili sesame oil.

Simmered Oura Gobou.

Grilled gobou salad

Mixed vegetable “kinpira”

Super Risou Gobou salad/appetizer

Steamed/fried Yama Gobou

Vegan Yama Gobou Sushi

————————-

2) LOTUS ROOTS/RENKON/蓮根

lotus-root1

Lotus roots come from a plant called Nelumbo nucifera, also known by a number of names including Indian lotus, sacred lotus, bean of India, or simply lotus. This plant is an aquatic perennial. Under favorable circumstances its seeds may remain viable for many years.
A common misconception is referring to the lotus as a water-lily (Nymphaea), an entirely different plant.

Native to Greater India and commonly cultivated in water gardens, the lotus is the national flower of India and Vietnam.

The flowers, seeds, young leaves, and “roots” (rhizomes) are all edible. In Asia, the petals are used sometimes for garnish, while the large leaves are used as a wrap for food. In Korea, the leaves and petals are used as a tisane. Yeonkkotcha (연꽃차) is made with dried petals of white lotus and yeonipcha (연잎차) is made with the leaves. The rhizome (called ǒu (藕) in pinyin Chinese, ngau in Cantonese, bhe in Hindi, renkon (レンコン, 蓮根 in Japanese), yeongeun (연근) in Korean is used as a vegetable in soups, deep-fried, stir-fried and braised dishes. Petals, leaves, and rhizome can also all be eaten raw, but there is a risk of parasite transmission (e.g., Fasciolopsis buski): it is therefore recommended that they be cooked before eating.

FACTS:

-Season (in Japan): September~December

-Analytic data (as per 100g):

Energy: 66 kcal
Water: 81.5 g
Protein: 1.9 g
Carbohydrates: 15.5 g

Inorganic qualities:
Natriu: 24 mg
Potassium: 440 mg
Calcium: 20 mg
Iron: 00.5 mg
Zinc: 0.3 mg
Manganese: 0.78 mg

Vitamins:
B1: 0.10 mg
B6: 0.09 mg

Dietary fibers: 5.7 g

HEALTH FACTS:

-Combined with liver, or beef, or pork, or chicken, helps revitalize human blood and organs.

-Combined with turnips, or daikon, or beansprouts, or trefoil, helps digestion and bowels.

-Combined with leafy vegetables, or potato, or apples, helps combat cancer and obesity.

-Combined with konnyaku, or celery, or lettuce, or green peppers, helps lower blood cholesterol. helps combat artery hardening and prevent heart diseases.

VARIETIES

Kaga Renkon/加賀れんこん

Very fine texture and high content in starch,
Best appreciated steamed.

Iwakuni Renkon/岩国れんこん

Large specimen with large holes.

TIPS:

-Choose specimens with a clear white cut section. There should not be any black spots.
-Use large specimen as they are easier to cut and use.
-To prevent oxydising, wrap cut specimen into wet kitchen paper.
-Add vinegar to water when boling them to keep them white.
-The easiest way to peel them is to use a potato peeler!

COOKING:

The stamens can be dried and made into a fragrant herbal tea called liánhuā cha (蓮花茶) in Chinese, or (particularly in Vietnam) used to impart a scent to tea leaves. The lotus seeds or nuts (called liánzĭ, 蓮子; or xian liánzĭ, 鲜莲子, in Chinese) are quite versatile, and can be eaten raw or dried and popped like popcorn, phool makhana. They can also be boiled until soft and made into a paste, or boiled with dried longans and rock sugar to make a tong sui (sweet soup). Combined with sugar, lotus seed paste becomes one of the most common ingredient used in pastries such as mooncakes, daifuku, and rice flour pudding.

Japanese popular Renkon dishes:

lotus-root-nimono

“NIMONO”

lotus-root-sumono

“SUMONO”

lotus-root-kimpira

“KIMPIRA”

“STUFFED LOTUS ROOTS”

“DEEP-FRIED LOTUS ROOT SANDWICH”

lotus-roots-chips

“CHIPS”

3) TOMATOES

tomato1

Tomatoes have appeared 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,…

FACTS:

-Season: All year round for greenhouse tomatoes, June=September for open-air tomatoes

-Analytic data (as per 100g):
Energy: 19 kcal
Water: 94.0 g
Carbohydrates: 4.7 g

Inorganic qualities:
Natrium: 3 mg
Potassium: 210 mg
Magnesium: 9 mg
Phosphorus: 26 mg

Vitamins:
A Beta caroten: 540 microg
B1: 0.05mg
B2: 0.02 mg
B6: 0.08 mg
C: 15 mg

Dietary fibers: 1.0 g

Licopin (Ricopin), 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.

HEALTH FACTS:

-Combined with Potatoes, or Broccoli, or garlic, or onion, helps combat ageing.
-Combined with cabbage, or chilies, or spinach, helps combat cancer and helps blood flow.
-Combined with lemon, or cauliflower, or pimentoes, or parsley, helps lower blood pressure and improve blood flow.
-Combined with vinegar, or oranges, or apples, or strawberries, helps recovery from illness and injury, helps combat stiff shoulder.

Who said that the Italians look healthier than everybody else? LOL

VARIETIES

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.

“Momotaro Tomato/Gold Variety”

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.

“Sicilian Rouge”, both for cooking and salads.

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 beneficent 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 used to be grown exclusively 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” used to be grown by only two farmers near Iwata City!
Recently a yellow version is being grown experimentally.

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!

“Fruit Yellow”, a small variety popular with kids!

“Fruit Gold”, sweet and rich in vitamins!

“Nitakikoma”, a Japanese variety which does not break away even after long cooking.

“Green Zebra”, Japanese name for green heirloom tomato

AGRI-TOMATO1

Heirloom Tomatoes grown in Shizuoka City!

“Green”, stays green when ripe
Great in tenpura!

“Cindy Sweet”, well-balanced and sweet

“Aiko”, Japanese variety. Exists both in yellow and red. Eaten cooked or raw.

“Tomato Berry”, small, sweet and well-balanced.

“Campari”, grown in Hokkaido, Japan, originally from Holland. Fruity!

“Amakko”, similar to “Campari”. Very sweet!

“Piccola Rouge”, Japanese version of an Italian Mini-tomato variety.

“First”. Appears in Winter. Grown in Iwata City, too! Beautiful pointed shape. Juicy!
Also called “Renaissance” in Shizuoka Prefecture.

“Piccola Canaria”, an orange variety of the Piccola.

“Black”, as it is called!

“Kisu”. Beautiful colour and very sweet!

“Zeitaku Tomato”, meaning “Extravagant Tomato” in Japanese! Fruity, juicy and sweet!

“Guppi”, a tasty tomato apt for cooking.

“Carrot Tomato”. High in carotens, taste similar to carrot. Appreciated raw.

“Orange Banana” from Russia! Very sweet!

“Evergreen”. Versatile, can be eaten raw, cooked or pickled.

“Strawberry Tomato”. A cousin of tomatoes. God balance between sweetness and acidity.
Also used as decoration.

“Tokutani Tomato”. Fruit tomato, especially grown in Shikoku Island. Brand Tomato. Very expensive!

Many more varieties are regularly imported!

4) SWEET POTATOES

satsuma-1

Yams or “Satsuma Imo” were first introduced to Japan in the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa) in 1604 by the Chinese. They were then introduced in Kyushu in 1609, an area that grows 80% of the total Japanese production.
Ssweet potatoes should not be confused with yams or yama imo/山芋 in Japanese.

They have been recognized in this country for a long time for both their nutritional and pharmaceutical values.

satsumabeni_haruka

FACTS:

-Season: September~November

-Analytic data (as per 100g):
Energy: 132 kcal
Water: 66.1 g
Proteins: 1.2 g
Carbohydrates: 31.5 g

Inorganic qualities:
Natrium: 4 mg
Potassium: 470 mg
Magnesium: 40 mg
Iron: 0.7 mg
Copper: 0.18 mg
Manganese: 0.44 g

Vitamins:
B1: 0.11mg
C: 29 mg
E: 1.6 mg

Dietary fibers: 2.3 g

HEALTH FACTS:

-Combined with burdock root, or shiitake, or carrot, or spinach, helps combat colds, helps enhance skin health, helps combat lung and intestine cancer.
-Combined with devil’s tongue tuber-elephant foot tuber/konnyku, or hijiki sweet seaweeed, or beansprouts, or apple, helps combat cancer, constipation, obesity, and artery hardening.
-Combined with Judas Ear mushroom, or shiitake, or seaweed, or hijiki sweet seaweed, helps lower blood cholesterol, helps combat obesity and diabetes.
-Combined with strawberries, or lemon, or pimentos, helps combat stress, helps skin rejuvenation and intensifies appetite.

VARIETIES

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.

Beni Azuma/ベニアズマ, mostly eaten in Eastern Japan. Turns very sweet upon cooking.

Naruto Kintoki/鳴門金時, popular in Western Japan. Considered elegant and sweet.

Tosabeni/土佐紅, also attributed “No 14 value (top)”, is very sweet and is a “brand name” sweet potato.

Cheese cake combination with Tosabeni Sweet Potato!

Manamusume,/愛娘 another “No 14 value” brand sweeet potato.

Gorou Shima Kintoki/五郎島金時, particularly popular as baked sweet potato.

Kougane Sengan/黄金千貫, considered as the top shochu sweet potato.

Tanegashima Mukashi Mitsu Imo/種子島昔蜜芋, a sweet potao with a beautiful orange colour and elegant taste.

Tanegashima Murasaki Imo/種子島紫芋, as above, but with a beautiful purple colour.

Annou Imo/安納いも, rich in carotens, with a beautiful orange colour and very sweet.

Annou Imo cuisine!

Purple Sweet Road/パープルスイートロード, an interesting name for a sweet tasty hybrid.

The same as above as hyokan Japanese jelly!

satsumatanegashima

A favorite “Tanegashima Gold Imo” grown in Taneko Island south of Kyushu. It has the particularity of being red when raw before changing to a rich golden color when cooked. Among other varieties, the violet sweet potatoes are getting increasingly popular.

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

A great combination of the three above as a cold salad with mayonnaise or cream-based dressing.

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!
-Leaves can be eaten!

5) 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.

It is recognized in many quarters as natural medicine:
-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).

FACTS:

-Season (in Japan): May~June
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.

-Analytic data (as per 100g):

Energy: 22 kcal
Water: 92.6 g
Carbohydrates: 3.9 g

Inorganic qualities:
Potassium: 270 mg
Iron: 0,7 mg
Zinc: 60 mg

Vitamins:
A alpha caroatene: 380 microg
B1: 0.14 mg
B2: 0.15 mg
B6: 0.12 mg
Leafy acid: 190 microg
C: 15 mg

Dietary fibers: 1.8 g

HEALTH FACTS:

-When combined with seaweed, or carrot, or broccoli, or spinach, provides stamina and helps combat cancer and colds.

-When combined with shellfish, or chicken, or turnips, or red-fleshed fat fish, helps combat liver problems and provides stamina.

-When combined with okra, or avocado, or celery, or garlic, heps combat cancer, high blood pressure and heart diseases.

-When combined with onion, or codfish, or tofu (especially yuba), or konnyaku/devil’s tongue tuber-elephant’s foot tuber, helps with qaulity and flow of blood, helps combat obesity and blood vessel hardening.

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

asparagus-wild

Asparaguses are abundant in the wild, 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 remember 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.

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.

RECIPES:

uzu-41

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

————————————
6) LEEKS

negi-1

Leeks, or “negi/葱” in Japanese, are an almost universal vegetable.
It is used in cuisine at restaurants and homes on all continents and have been recognized for ages as very beneficial plant.

Recent research has demonstrated that they are an effective cure against colds in particular, not only for humans, but for many animals, too.
Some people do not appreciate them because of their pungent smell and taste, but this can be taken care of with a couple of simple steps.

Back home in France, we boil the central part of fat leeks and eat them under the name of “poor man’s asparaguses”!

FACTS:
-Season: leeks can be bought all year round, but the best season is from November to February in the Northern Hemisphere.

-Analytic data (as per 100g):

Energy: 28 kcal
Water: 91.7 g
Carbohydrates: 7.2 g

Inorganic qualities:
Potassium: 180 mg
Calcium: 31 mg
Manganese: 0.10 mg
Phosphorus: 26 mg
Iron: 0.2 mg
Zinc: 0.3 mg

Vitamins:
B1: 0.04 mg
B2: 0.04 mg
B6: 0.11 mg
C: 11 mg
Folic acid: 56 microg.

Dietary fibers: 2.2 g

TIPS:
-Fatter specimens will have more taste.
-Choose specimens with a “wet” bottom cut.
-If you use large specimens raw in salads, first cut 5~8 cm long sections, then cut them thin lengthwise and leave them some time in clean cold water. The pungency will greatly diminish.
-To chop leeks for cooking, cut them first in 5~10 cm sections, then cut them thin lengthwise, and only then, chop them crosswise.

HEALTH FACTS:

-Combined with Judas’ Ear Mushrooms, or sardine, or mackerel, or seaweed, holps lower blood cholesterol and high blood pressure, and prevents blood vessels hardening.

-Combined with umeboshi/Japanese pickled plums, or Japanese sake, or ginger, or shiso/perilla, helps prevent and cure colds, combats ageing and helps recovery from diseases.

-Combined with onion, or cucumber, or garlic, or Judas’ Ear mushrooms, helps blood flow and combats blood clotting.

-Combined with seaweed/wakame, or sweet potato, or lotus root, helps combat constipation and obesity.

VARIETIES:
There are innemurable varieties in the World, but I will introduce here the main varieties encountered in Japan:

negi-senju
“Senju”
The most common and popular variety. Also called “Nefukanegi”

negi-hakata-manno-negi
“Hakata Manno”:
A choice specimen raised in Kyushu Island

negi-hime
“Me” or “Hime”:
Could be called leek sprouts,too.
Eaten raw in salads, sushi, finger foods.

negi-ito-negi
“Ito” or Thread Leek, used in the same way as “Me/Hime”.

negi-kositsu-negi
“Koshizu”, another common and popular variety.

negi-kujo-futo-negi
“Kujo-Futo”:
A choice specimen originting from Kyoto.

negi-kujo-hoso1
“Kujo Hoso”. Same as above, but a lot thinner.

negi-riiki
“Riiki”
A short fat specimen popular for “nabe” and soups.

negi-shimonita-negi
“Shimonita”.
A fat variety with a short stem and long leaves. Popular with soups and “nabe” (Japanese-style pot-au-feu)


“Sakutonosama Negi”
A variety of the above. Turne sweet upon beig cooked.

“Aka Negi”
Red Leeks in Japanese, soft with little pungency. Considered as a delicacy.


“Wakegi”
Spring onion, a cross between onion and leek. Very popular in salad and as sesaoning.


“Asatsuki”
Chives


“Miyanegi”
From Tochigi Prefecture. Fat and short, their scent and taste are different. Turn sweet with frost.


“Sendai magari Negi”
From Miyagi Prefecture. These leeks bend naturally as they grow!


“Kannon Negi”
From Hiroshima City.


‘Hirokko”
From Yamagata and Akita Prefectures. Very popular cooked with eggs or meat.

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