It definitely feels like spring today. Spring in Japan means the introduction of some yummy seasonal Japanese spring vegetables at the supermarket. Maybe you’ve seen some of them recently on your trip to buy groceries?
What Are Some Popular Japanese Spring Vegetables?
Have you felt the change of seasons since you came to Japan? One of the easiest ways to do so is to cook with seasonal ingredients. They are much more delicious in-season than the rest of the year, and so much more sustainable. Besides, they are also cheaper than usual because they are abundant in supply in the market. Here are some vegetables which grow during spring.
Nanohana, the Rapeseed Flower
Nanohana (菜の花) also known as nabana (菜花), or rapeseed in English. The rapeseed flower is a flower that reflects the arrival of early spring. You may have heard about Nanohana viewing, a popular spring pastime where people go to view vast yellow nanohana fields.
We eat the rapeseed flower the leaves, stalk and bud before the flower blossoms. It tastes a little bitter and is known as a great antioxident. The best season to eat it is from February to March when it’s at its freshest. Japanese people usually eat nanohana after boiling it and dressing it in vinegared miso or mustard. But it also goes well with olive oil and salt. Of course, it can also be a delicious addition to spaghetti.
Though cabbages are available at the market all year round, you can find the special “spring cabbage” during this season. Compared to the normal cabbage, the leaves of the spring cabbage are greener, looser and softer. To get the best out of this seasonal cabbage you might use it in salads or for cabbage pickles. These will taste totally different from those made from winter cabbages!
Taranome, the Aralia Sprout
Aralia sprout is called taranome in Japanese. Not only vegetables but edible wild herbs are often a large part of the Japanese diet. The aralia sprout is one of those wild herbs which grows in spring. It is often eaten as tempura, and if you want a quick fix but don’t want to make it yourself, you can find it readily prepared in the fried section of the supermarket during the season. As well as tempura you can use it in dishes with mayonnaise, which acts as a counter for the bitter taste. Another idea is to mix it with cooked rice (mazegohan).
Shin Jaga, New Potatoes
New potatoes come into the market twice a year: spring and fall. The new potatoes in spring are harvested in Kyushu. Their peels are thinner and they are extra juicy and nutritious. I recommend you to eat them with the peel because they peels contain more nutrition. As the potatoes are harvested before they ripen, they taste delicious cooked as buttered potatoes, French fries, etc. If you want to make nikujaga (meat and potatoes), why not try bacon or ham instead of beef/pork, and it will taste better with new potatoes. Keep in mind that new potatoes spoil quicker than regular potatoes and you should eat them as soon as possible (within 7-10 days).
What Seasonal Japanese Spring Vegetables Do You Like?
Japanese people love to eat with the season and use seasonal vegetables in their meals at home. Cooking this way is fresher, cheaper, more sustainable.
Have you seen these in the supermarket lately? Did you use them in your dishes at home? Do you have any recipes? We would love to know what your favourite spring vegetables are, let us know in the comments.