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5 seasonable vegetables to buy in Japan this winter

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By ELIZABETH SOK

Money can be tight after the holiday season. When the days of fun and feasting have faded, January often brings a period of reflection and saving for the new year ahead. Happily, your food budget doesn’t have to break the bank with expensive imports (looking at you, pricey Chilean blueberries!). Alongside the leaner meat and fish choices that often get switched in as we double down on our New Year’s resolutions, why not fill up your plate with affordable and healthy Japanese seasonal winter vegetables?

Winter vegetables may get a bad rap for their lack of variety. Indeed, although I am a big fan of root vegetables, I did tire of throwing them in the oven as a wintery side dish in Canada. But, actually, Japan’s cold-weather specialties have quite a varied taste profile, from earthy and deep to peppery and sharp. Domestically grown, full of vitamins and minerals, and plenty of “Japan-only” appeal: dig into our list below to discover five stars of fuyu (winter)!

1. Burdock Root

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Photo: iStock: sirichai_asawalapsakul

Gobo (Burdock Root) is a slender root vegetable resembling a pale white tree root that can grow year-round but is primarily harvested during the fall and winter seasons. Burdock root is high in fiber which regulates blood sugar levels, so it’s often eaten to help with digestion or ground into powder and sold as a dietary tea.

When cooking with burdock, it’s best to not peel the skin as that is where the most nutrients are located, but giving the root a good scrub and soaking it in cold water will help remove the dirt and reduce its bitter taste. A popular recipe with burdock root is kinpira gobo, or sliced gobo with carrots and sesame, which is a staple for home cooks across Japan. Meanwhile, Hakata, Fukuoka prefecture’s specialty is tempura gobo-topped udon noodles which attract long lines of hungry tourists.

2. Napa or Chinese Cabbage

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© Savvy Tokyo

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