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Japanese Ingredients for the World’s Top Kitchens #31

KAGA LOTUS ROOT (RENKON)

From Healthy Soil, Plenty of Protein and Fiber

2023.08.28

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.

連載:未来に届けたい日本の食材

Takanori Kawabata, age 40, quit his salaryman job 12 years ago because he wanted to feel more alive. Now he’s one of just a few organic growers of renkon lotus root in the country. “I knew nothing about farming,” he says. “I learned by watching others. The first time I sprayed chemicals, all sorts of living things floated up to the surface of the pond, dead. I knew that couldn’t be good for the renkon or for us.”

Though we call it lotus root, technically the part we eat is a rhizome—a stem that spreads underground, growing perpendicular to the force of gravity. Kawabata plants roots rather than seeds, one per 3.3 square meters as the plant branches out and needs a lot of space. Harvest lasts from August to May. Popular among Tokyo chefs, his renkon are rich in mucin glycoprotein and fiber, and have a clean, crisp texture.


The fields are 20 km north of Kanazawa Station by car. Summer harvest begins at 2 AM, in order to reach the morning markets. In the busy winter months harvesting is done even in snowstorms. 

(photo left)  Keeping their hands above ground, pickers dip to their shoulders,working the water pressure from below to lift the rhizome up. 
(photo right) Washing and trimming before market. 

Thanks to renkon’s auspicious connotations, demand increases in the winter gift-giving season and at year’s end.

(photo left)Smaller ones are bagged for home use.
(photo right) A 300-g bag of wafer-thin chips with Noto sea salt.

Of all the tasks in farming, Kawabata likes harvesting the best.



◎Hasudayori
183-2 Otsu, Saida-machi, Kanazawa-shi, Ishikawa
☎080-2958-1190 
https://hasudayori.jp/

(The Cuisine Magazine /Junuary 2018)

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