Vegetables Used as Food in Japan.


Vegetables form a large part of the people's food in Japan; the varieties in use are many, and the methods of cooking numerous; some are preserved by simple air-drying; others are made into jams, pickled with sugar or acidified. The soja bean is the foundation of an almost universally used sauce, Schoyu; of a vegetable cheese, Miso; and of a highly albuminous jelly, Tofu; a large number of the plants are indigenous, other peculiar to warm climates, and few have hitherto been submitted to chemical examination. Rice is the largest article of consumption, and of it there are many varieties, a lot which are grouped in two divisions: one, the mountain rice grown on dry ground; the other marsh rice, cultivated in irrigated fields, both being botanically the same. Of the marsh rice there are also two principal divisions—ordinary and glutinous rice; the following analyses of dry matter in the three kinds are given:—

Ordinary. Glutinous. Mountain.
Proteïn matter 7.00 5.87 8.75
Fat 2.29 3.44 2.58
Cellulose 4.58 5.19 1.98
Non-nitrogenous extract 84.76 83.89 85.53
Ash 1.37 1.61 1.18

The figures for fat are larger than in other analyses of rice, but the difference is accounted for by the author's samples being undressed grain, whereas the samples examined by other investigators have been of the dressed and well cleaned commercial article. Panicum italicum, a species of millet, is, after rice, the principal food of the poorer classes. Sorghum saccharatum, is an introduction from America. Phaseolus radiatus is a bean largely cultivated and highly esteemed; it differs but little from the European variety, Phaseolus vulgaris.

Canavalia incurva, another sort of bean, is a climber not much cultivated; the pods are about 20 cm. long, bearing 6-8 rose-colored seeds, weighing on an average 2.5 grams each; they have, when ripe, a disagreeable smell, and are generally eaten unripe. Solanum Melongena, or egg plant, is largely cultivated, and many varieties of it exist; it is reared from seed, and bears fruit for a long time. The specimen of fruit examined weighed 64 grams; its value as food about equals that of the pumpkin or gourd. Young shoots of the Bambusa puberula, and three other varieties of bamboo, are very much in favor. As soon as they appear above the earth in spring, they are dug out and eaten, dressed as asparagus. Different kinds of the sweet potato (Batatus edulis) are largely cultivated, and are great favorites; their long succulent stems interlace and cover the soil, keeping it moist. Their deficiency in nitrogen and the small amount of ash compared with other root vegetables, is remarkable.

Dioscorea japonica is of limited cultivation, and used by the wealthier classes. Arctium Lappa, the seeds (root?) (Root. You don't eat the seeds of gobo. -Henriette) of one variety, Ummeda Gobo, reach an extraordinary size, a length of 1 meter, and circumference of about 30 cm. Colocasia antiquorum, the sweet Japanese potato, is extensively cultivated; like the common potato, it is grown from the sliced tubers. Conophollus Konjak is a somewhat similar plant; the root is rich in starch; it is used in the preparation of a gelatinous sort of food called konyaku, peeled, dried, and rubbed to powder; milk of lime, or the soluble salts from wood-ash is added to it, and stirred up to a stiff paste; it dries to a clammy mass, Brassica rapa rapifera, a turnip, is a favorite food. Raphanus sativus is a kind of radish which grows to an enormous size, specimens weighing 2 ½ -3 kilos are not uncommon, and one sort is much esteemed for its sweet taste; the radish is one of the most esteemed vegetable foods of Japan.—Landw. Versuchs.-Stat., 30, 42—51; Jour. Chem. Soc., June, 1884, p. 674.

The American Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. 56, 1884, was edited by John M. Maisch.