Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

'Kyoto Vegetables' Keep the Past Alive, Fresh

Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

'Kyoto Vegetables' Keep the Past Alive, Fresh

Article excerpt

Developed and refined as they were passed down through the centuries in the ancient capital of Japan, "Kyoto vegetables" add color to that city's dining tables in such foods as kaiseki haute cuisine, vegetarian dishes, pickled vegetables and obanzai meals involving a diverse array of small servings.

Admired in Japan and drawing increasing attention from overseas as well, high-quality Kyoto vegetables have been supported by the zeal of many, including farmers, local authorities and cooks.

Refined to suit Kyoto

As Kyoto flourished as the capital of Japan, fine vegetables came to the city from around the nation. These were further refined to suit the distinct culture and climate of Kyoto, ultimately becoming what we know as Kyoto vegetables.

However, from around 1965, transportation networks greatly improved in Japan, and many disease-resistant, easy-to-cultivate ordinary vegetables were distributed to Kyoto. Unable to compete, Kyoto vegetables became limited to varieties used by luxurious Japanese-style restaurants, grown in small amounts.

Some farmers even entrusted their seeds to prefectural laboratories and left the business.

Feeling it would be a misfortune to lose these vegetables, local authorities took the initiative in 1988 and began working to create a brand with the involvement of all parties concerned. The term "Kyoto vegetables" was widely used at the time, and authorities defined those that met certain standards -- such as having been introduced no later than the Meiji era (1868-1912) -- as "traditional Kyoto vegetables." It bestowed that classification on 37 products.

The selections are said to have been made through discussions among intellectuals, people related to the industry and others. Kori daikon radishes and Toji turnips were included to preserve their names in history, although they had already become extinct.

However, many traditional vegetables see only a few shipments and are barely distributed at all. Parties including Kyoto Prefecture and producers groups created a system in 1989 to certify "Kyoto brand products" that can ensure a certain amount of production volume.

Seven products including legumes, Kamo eggplants and Ebiimo shrimp-shaped potatoes were initially chosen to be shipped with the "Kyo-Mark."

Boost volume and brand

One vegetable that is not a "traditional" Kyoto vegetable but became a brand product is Manganji amato chili peppers, developed in the Manganji district of Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture, during the Taisho era (1912-1926). …

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