In Japan, the vegetable and fruit selection changes with the seasons. Therefore, there are staples which you can always find, such as apples, regular cabbage and potatoes. On the other hand, there is also produce which can only be bought during a certain season. In addition, some vegetables and fruits may also have seasonal varieties. Occasionally, you can also encounter out-of-season produce, but at a higher price than normal. One example of this is strawberries. They are in season during the winter until early Spring. However, you can still buy them out of season, but at a higher price.
Grilled young bamboo shoots
Why should you cook with seasonal ingredients?
The pros of eating in-season vegetables are several:
They are budget-friendly: vegetables and fruits are often cheaper during their peak-time .This is mainly due to the fact that the quantity increases. This makes them easier to find and buy. Therefore, if you you usually avoid strawberries because they get a bit pricey out of season, buy them in-season at a lower price and enjoy the treat!
Taste and texture: This is when seasonal variations come into play. Cabbage and potato both have spring variations. They are a bit different from their regular counterparts in flavour and texture. In addition, another vegetable which is available all year round is gobo root. Although it is an all year ingredient, the young spring roots are more delicate than their regular counterparts. Hence, they serve up a different cooking and dining experience.
Change up your diet: Seasonal vegetables provide a great chance to mix up your regular staple foods with season specials. Do you love mochi and eat it all year round? – Fill your stomach with sakura and strawberry mochi in the spring and sweet potato in the autumn.
The cons of using seasonal ingredients? If you have one let us know, because we don’t have any!
simple cabbage salad
Examples of Japanese spring ingredients
Bamboo shoots [たけのこ]– Young bamboo shoots are popular during the spring in Japan. You can grill, boil or stir-fry them; just cook the shoots the way you like them. Takenoko are also highly nutritious with a low calorie content and lots of fiber.
You can dig up bamboo shoots by yourself, if you have access to a location and the knowledge to do it. There are also harvesting festivals where you can dig up the bamboo shoots together with experienced farmers. For example, these ones in Fukuoka.
Spring cabbage [春キャベツ]– Spring cabbage has a greener and softer appearance and texture compared to regular cabbage. It’s great for a delicious spring cabbage salad with dressing.
Spring gobo [牛蒡]– Burdock is a highly nutritious vegetable, that sometimes is easy to forget if you aren’t used to using it. In Japan we often use burdock as a side dish. One example is kinpira gobo, which is a simple burdock stir-fry.
Nasu [なす]– Eggplant is in season from mid-spring to mid-autumn. With the right seasoning and cooking method, eggplant is a great substitute for the eel in unajyu (grilled eel on rice). You can find our vegan unayju recipe with eggplant on YouTube.
Nanohana [菜の花]– Rapeseed flowers blom at the beginning of spring. Usually you can find them in small bundles in the grocery store. In Japan we often eat it the flowers a salad with mustard or soy sauce dressing.
Shin jaga [新じゃがいも]– New potato have thinner skin than their colder season counterparts. We recommend you to try eating these potatoes with the skin left on. This is because there’s lots of extra nutrition just under the skin. Just as with the bamboo shoots, you can cook them any way you like. They’ll be just as a delicious either way.
Eggplant miso soup
Check out this blog post by guestblogger Eiko Azumano to learn more about Japanese vegan cooking ingredients and veganism in Japan.