JOURNAL / JAPAN etc.(English)

JAPAN [Ishikawa]
Japanese Ingredients for the World’s Top Kitchens #31


From Healthy Soil, Plenty of Protein and Fiber


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.


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.

(写真左)水圧の力で収穫する「水掘り」の蓮根。蓮根は茎の一部が肥大化したもの。地中深くではなく横に寝るように伸びていくため、栽培には広大な敷地が必要になる。収穫はクワではなく水圧の力で表面の泥をよけ、掘り出していく。 (写真右)節目からは小さな蓮根がさらに伸びる。

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. 

(写真左)畑に膝をつき、肩まで水に浸かりながら、水圧で泥をよけ収穫する。 (写真右)収穫した蓮根は水洗いをした後、節目にある黒い根を一つひとつきれいに落としてから出荷される。

(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.

(写真左)小さな蓮根は家庭で気軽に使えるよう小袋につめて。こちらも人気。 (写真右)蓮根チップスはギリギリの薄さを模索して生まれた。

(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.

183-2 Otsu, Saida-machi, Kanazawa-shi, Ishikawa

(The Cuisine Magazine /Junuary 2018)