Japan’s premium quality vegetables
While at base washoku refers to the traditional Japanese meal consisting of rice, miso soup, side dishes, and pickles, in the context of food culture the term extends to special celebratory meals such as those made for annual events, as well as to issues of etiquette in preparation, in service, and at the table.
The secret of Japanese quality vegetables
Whatever the context, washoku wouldn’t be washoku without the rich variety of produce made possible by Japan’s climate and its terrain that stretches long distances from north to south. Four distinct seasons—or five if the early-summer monsoon is counted— yield produce unique to each, a diversity that is reflected in the cuisine. The varying climates and elevations encountered from one end of the country to another offer chefs a vast range of regional produce from which to choose. Moreover, vegetables grown in Japanese soil owe their excellent flavor firstly to a naturally abundant supply of high-quality soft water, and secondly to selective cultivation that has stepped up taste as it has increased yield.
As many as 150 types of vegetables are sold in Japan, including imported varieties that have taken root here. Heirloom varieties, such as the iconic ones from Kyoto, Kaga (Ishikawa prefecture), and Edo (Tokyo), have been grown long since before selective cultivation took on, and interest in their unique qualities continues to rise. Defined as produce grown in the same region by more than three generations of farmers using cultivation methods unique to the area, these native strains heighten the appeal of Japanese produce. Throughout the country, more and more initiatives are underway to preserve heirloom varieties for subsequent generations, a movement that will only gather momentum as more chefs come to taste the difference.
Have you tried some of Japan’s unique heirloom varieties before? If not, make sure to do so when you travel Japan!