Photo: iStock: petesphotography

5 seasonal vegetables to buy in Japan this summer


As we’re baking in the sweltering heat of this year’s summer, it’s hard to tell what is feeling the burn more these days, our bodies, our pocketbooks or our planet. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in times like these, but sometimes even making small personal changes can make a world of difference.

Case in point: vegetables. While eating more vegetables and consuming more locally have become far-reaching rallying cries, in food-insecure Japan especially, choosing local, sustainable and seasonal produce can help you (and the climate!) stay on a healthy path while supporting farmers in the country you call home. And, going with Japanese fresh and in-season veggies will also do wonders for your bottom line. 

Check out five in-season Japanese vegetables below, as well as how to prep and store them, to get you started. Make sure to read all the way to the bottom for our suggestions of local vegetable delivery baskets so that you don’t even have to make your way to the supermarket.

1. Myoga

Photo: iStock: mizoula

Myoga, known as Japanese ginger in English, refers to the edible tender buds and shoots of a herbaceous perennial plant native to Japan. It has a pleasantly crunchy texture and a refreshing and light gingery taste. Myoga contains many vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin K, calcium and magnesium which make it a great healthy vegetable to add to your repertoire.

Somen noodles with myoga Photo: iStock: byryo

It also plays well with other distinct summer foods, like as a thinly sliced garnish to a bowl of cold somen or soba noodles or even fried in a tempura batter. To store myoga, place it in an airtight container and add water just to the top. Then, pop it in the vegetable crisper of your refrigerator and it will keep for about two weeks. 

2. Goya

Photo: iStock: arjacee

As is obvious from its English name, goya (bitter melon) refers to a bitter-tasting vegetable that has long been a staple of Okinawan cuisine. As such, perhaps the most famous dish containing Goya is where it is sautéed with tofu as the Okinawan specialty goya champuru.

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© Savvy Tokyo

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A strange selection. My favourite summer vegetable in Japan is corn on the cob. Corn is only available fresh in summer and the varieties grown here tend to be super sweet. Cook in the microwave with the leaves on for best results.

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I’m intrigued by the okra natto. I like both separately, but together? Texturally challenging, I would imagine… as for the bitter melon, that’s more of a punishment than an ingredient.

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