JOURNAL / JAPAN etc.(English)

JAPAN [Tokyo]

Blooms to Enjoy with All the Senses

Japanese Ingredients for the World’s Top Kitchens #14


text by Michiko Watanabe / photographs by Daisuke Nakajima / English text by Susan Rogers Chikuba

Though the times are always changing, there are certain timeless ingredients from Japan that will never go out of style. Yukio Hattori, president of Hattori Nutrition College in Tokyo, introduces unique labors of love—items grown and produced with care and integrity by hardworking suppliers across the country.

Horticulturist Naoki Yokoyama is the 15th generation to head his family’s nursery in Tokyo’s Kiyose district. Six years ago, anticipating the rush of visitors with the 2020 Olympics, farmer friends asked him to try growing edible blooms. “At first I thought, ‘how awful! The poor flowers!’” he laughs. But he rose to the challenge and, after dismal results at first, finally achieved the perfect balance of fertilizer, light and water.

Companion plantings aid pest control. All-natural wood vinegar and neem oil also keep insects away. 

“Of course we can’t use agrochemicals or pesticides, as the plants are to be consumed,”Yokoyama says. “For two years bugs ate everything we grew. We fought back with mixed plantings, ultra-sheer nets, white ground tarps, marigolds. Anything to discourage them!” He also tinkered with colors— preferring soft, antiqued hues for primroses and pansies—and fine-tuned growing conditions to yield pleasing flavors.

Edible flowers are grown small and harvested with their stems on, for longer-lasting freshness.

Chefs receive their orders packed like a bouquet. 

(photo left)Slow-release chlorine dioxide purifies the air. The crop thrived after its introduction.
(photo right)Purple pansies yield a pale blue colorant. When dried they turn bright blue. 

Yokoyama loves surprise in a given flower’s taste or scent profile. “Pansies have an afternote of menthol. And marigolds carry citrus notes,” he smiles.

◎Yokoyama Nursery
For wholesale inquiries: c/o Daiharu Co., Ltd.

(The Cuisine Magazine /April 2019)