Traditional vegetables, ones that had almost been forgotten!
Once upon a time, many kinds of indigenous vegetables were cultivated in and around Kanazawa during the feudal era. Since consumers controlled the market, the farmers were forced to bend to their demands. Japanese people are well-known for being choosy about the appearance of fruits and vegetables, perhaps sometimes going overboard. They requested special seasonal items throughout the year. It was difficult for agriculturalists to breed general produce which could adjust to mass production or maintain durability. Eventually these traditional products couldn’t satisfy the demands of consumers and were phased out of the marketplace.
In 1997, breeders, agriculturalists, local stores, and governmental administration started to reproduce these indigenous vegetables as official “Kaga-Yasai” branded products. So far, 15 types of vegetables have been authorized, all of them having been cultivated before 1945. The vegetables are grown through traditional processes, but the methods for mass production aren’t as traditional. They all are harvested throughout each season.
We have four seasons in Japan, as I’m sure you know. I’ve heard that seasonal vegetables are good for our bodies. For example, it's said that many vegetables which are harvested in the summer, such as tomatoes or cucumbers, can make our bodies cooler. On the other hand, the winter ones like root-based vegetables can keep our bodies warm. Therefore, eating the proper vegetables during the right season is quite sensible. These Kaga-Yasai vegetables are definitely worth eating for many reasons!
Here are the 15 official branded vegetables; all having produced since before 1945.
Bamboo shoot (Apr - May)
In 1766, the first moso bamboos were cultivated in Ishikawa prefecture. We call bamboo shoots "Takenoko", which means baby bamboo. Takenoko rice, simmered Takenoko, and tempura are utilized local bamboo shoots at most restaurants during the spring. If you visit here, ask the local people where you can have them!
Cucumber (April - Nov)
The original seed is from a pickling melon, obtained in the Tohoku region. Kaga Futo-Gyuries are bigger than normal cucumbers. They have a diameter of 5-7 centimeters, are 22-27 cm long, and can sometimes be an entire kilogram! They’re mainly used for stews, soups, or steamed dishes.
Eggplant (Jun - Oct)
The origin of this vegetable is unknown. Although most of the eggplants in Japan are quite long and thin, this one is short and round, like an egg! The name “murasaki” refers to it staying purple under its calyx. It has its thin peel with a juicy taste.
Hyacinth bean (Jun - Oct)
In Ishikawa it's also known as "Dara-mame (idiot bean)", due to it being easy to grow for anyone, even idiots. We eat both the bean and the shell. It's often simmered with some other ingredients.
Gynura crepioides (Jun - Nov)
It's on record that this vegetable has been cultivated since the Edo period. Once it's boiled, it becomes slimy. Good for vinegared dishes, tempura, and much more!
Utsugi Akagawa Amaguri Kabocha
Pumpkin (Jun - Sep)
It looks like a chestnut, with a taste also similar to it. It has a beautiful color, thick skin, and tastes sweet. Good for any dish or dessert.
Sweet potato (Aug - Jun)
This sweet potato is the most famous vegetable in the Kaga-Yasai group. Gorojima is the district name where it's produced. It's well-known for having a higher sugar content.
Stem of taro (Jul - Sep)
It's rich in dietary fiber and mainly used as a vinegar for dishes. The dishes go well with alcohol. Enjoy the beautiful color with Japanese Sake!
Lotus root (Nov - Dec)
Hasumushi is the most famous of the local dishes made with this lotus root. It's slimier than typical lotus roots. It’s also quite delicious as a tempura!
Shungiku leaf (Oct - Apr)
It's said that this vegetable has been cultivated since the feudal era of the fifth lord. It has a thick leaf with a unique aroma.
Japanese parsley (Nov - Apr)
Originally a wild vegetable, it started to be cultivated during the Meiji era. Usually served in a soused or simmered dish.
源助大根 Gensuke Daikon
Daikon radish (Oct - Feb)
It has been cultivated since the Showa era. It's well-known for its juicy skin, and perfect for simmered dish like Oden.
Green onion (Nov - Jan)
The origin of this vegetable is unknown. It has a long and thick white stem, with a sweet taste. It’s often used for hotpot disheslike Sukiyaki.
Mustard greens (Nov - Mar)
Although the origins are unknown, it used to be grown between the Taisho era and the beginning of the Showa era. It has a spicy taste similar to wasabi ginger.
Arrowhead bulb (Nov - Mar)
It sure has an interesting shape! It has been cultivated since the feudal era of the fifth lord. It's a bit similar to yam, and has a slightly bitter taste. Served as a simmered or deep fried dish.
Published: January 31, 2012
Rokkakudo Seseragi-Branch [六角堂 香林坊せせらぎ通り店]
The long-established steak house opened this branch on the Seseragi street along the lovely canal in the heart of downtown Korinbo. Their skilled chefs cook excellent beef from the Noto peninsula, fresh seafood, and indigenous vegetables called Kaga Yasai, just in front of you. Try the mouthwatering steak after or before visiting the samurai district!
2-1-1, Korinbo, Kanazawa
Tel 076-222-6109 / Fax 076-222-6119 /
E-mail / http://www.asadaya.co.jp/seseragi/
Open: 11:30-22:00; closed New Year holidays / Recommended menu: Noto-Gyu Course: steak course meals utilized excellent beef from the peninsula / Budget: lunch 2,000~9,500 yen; dinner 5,300-11,000 yen (Tax not included) / Credit cards: Most accepted / Languages: Limited English spoken; English menu