Nanohana (なのはな、菜の花) is a healthy Japanese vegetable perhaps more correctly known as nabana (なばな、菜花), or rapeseed. It is warmly welcomed in late winter as a harbinger of spring. You can find nanohana in the supermarket from December through March, wrapped in small bunches. The name literally means “the flowers of a leafy vegetable,” and that is what you eat – the top 15 centimeters of the plant – stalks, leaves and flower buds included.
Like many other vegetables of early springtime, the characteristic flavor of nanohana is a pleasing bitterness. It is said to come from properties like polyphenols and alkaloids, which help remove toxins that have accumulated in our bodies during the winter. Rapeseed is high in vitamins C, B1 and B2, and minerals such as folic acid, calcium and iron. It can help build your body’s resistance and fend off colds and anemia. Nanohana is also high in the antioxidant beta-carotene. Sauteing it in oil boosts the absorbency of that mineral, making nanohana a great addition to a peperoncino pasta or another oil-based spaghetti sauce.
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