Japan in Autumn – The most common seasonal foods
So it’s September and that mean’s summer has all but disappeared, as 秋 (あき or Aki) ‘Autumn’ or ‘Fall’ gradually creeps in and makes itself known. As temperatures start to taper off, we look forward to more milder days, cooler nights and the beauty of fall’s changing colour leaves. To keep in theme with the season, here we will introduce some of the more common seasonal foods you should expect to find or try during the autumn months.
栗 – (くり or Kuri) is a Japanese Chestnut that is seasonal during the Fall. They are small to medium sized nuts and are typically bitter in taste. As a result, they are usually used as an ingredient for a number of dishes, rather than eaten as is. One of the most common dishes is known as 栗ご飯 (くりごはん or kurigohan), meaning chestnut rice. This dish is of course made with Japanese Chestnuts and also Japanese rice and Salted Plums (梅干し – うめぼし or Umeboshi). A typical dish will look similar to the picture below:
薩摩芋 (さつまいも or Satsuma-imo) – is the Japanese sweet potato, which can be found in a variety of colours. Whilst they usually have a yellowish flesh inside, you can also buy purple coloured imo’s too, usually referred to as 紫芋 (Murasaki Imo). Some of the more common dishes that include sweet potato are Imo-gohan, which is boiled in its skin and served with rice, or for a sweeter taste the sweet potato is dipped in sweet syrup. They can also be served deep fried as a tempura dish.
秋刀魚 (さんま or Sanma) – known as the Pacific Saury in English, because it can be found in the North Pacific Ocean around the nations of Japan and Korea. They shape of the fish itself is said to be similar to that of a knife, and so this is also reflected in the Chinese Characters which directly translates into ‘autumn knife fish’.
They are usually prepared lightly salted and grilled, usually garnished with a grated radish (daikon) and commonly served with a combination of rice and miso soup. They may also be served with a variety of other condiments including soy sauce, lime or lemon.
They may also be served raw as a sashimi dish, and this is becoming increasingly more popular, especially in the areas in and around Mie. As a dish, it is usually sprinkled with salt and pepper, and served on top of a vinegar flavoured rice as sushi.
Other Fall Foods
茄子 (なす or Nasu) – Has a few names in English, but most commonly referred to as Eggplant (in Oz anyway) or Aubegine, typically smaller in size in Japan when compared to its Western counterparts. The Egglplant is a common ingredient for many dishes, but can also be just as delicious on its own. Whether grilled, braised, fried or boiled it is extremely versatile during the autumn months.
南瓜 (かぼちゃ or Kabocha) – Pumpkin is especially common as we enter the cooler months of autumn. Obviously, it is especially delicious as a soup towards the cooler end of fall, but it is also popular throughout the Halloween period, where you naturally see many lanterns and other Pumpkin related dishes and decorations. Happy trick or treating!
葡萄 (ぶどう or Budou) – Grapes are also a common food found throughout autumn, especially during harvest. In addition, if you’re so inclined to go fruit picking yourself, you can join a tour or find one of the many farms available that let you indulge to your hearts content, within a certain time limit of course. Farms can be found in the areas of Yamanashi, Nagano, Kyoto and more.
梨 (なし or Nashi) – Similar to grapes, pears are also a common food that can be picked from farms located across rural Japan. Some of the picking friendly places include farms located in Aomori, Yamagata, Yamanashi and more.
For more information on fruit picking and available farms and tours, I recommend you check out the highly informative site Japan Fruits – the way of Japan. Happy Picking!