What’s That Veggie?
English name/ Okinawan / Japanese
Bitter Melon / Goya / Nigauri
Everyone should try Okinawa’s iconic vegetable at least once. This bitter gourd (technically a fruit) with a unique taste is popular in Southeast Asian and Asian cuisine. It’s often put in stir fries, and can even be eaten raw in salads – mixing it with ice will lessen the bitterness. Cut in half length wise, remove the seeds with a spoon and slice thinly. Is goya the secret to the longevity of Okinawans??
Storage: Fridge: 5 days in a plastic bag.
Dragon Fruit Bud
Young dragon fruit can be eaten as a vegetable before the bud blooms into fruit. The buds can be stir fried, boiled or steamed. They have a slight slimy consistency, and are a great addition to a salad or with a dipping sauce. Salad preparation & stir fry
Garlic Chives / Chiribira / Nira
These flat leaf chives are similar to regular chives but with a slight garlic taste. They’re a great flavoring to any fresh or cooked dish such as stir fries, pasta, mashed potatoes, meat dishes, etc.
Storage: Fridge: A week in a perforated plastic bag.
Green papaya is the unripened fruit most people are familiar with. It’s hard and does not need to be ripened, but just peeled, deseeded and shredded. A cheese grater, or food processor will do the job. It can be prepared as a salad (green papaya salad aka Som Tam) or used in curries or stir fries.
Storage: Fridge: A week in a plastic bag.
Japanese Pumpkin/ Chiinkuan / Kabocha
Kabocha is a slightly sweet, mouth watering winter squash. It tastes similar to a sweeter version of butternut squash. It’s delicious roasted, pan sauted, fried, and in curries and soups – basically every way except raw. The hard green skin can be cooked or peeled, and the seeds should be removed. The squash is a light orange color. It’s a bid difficult to cut, so be careful. Try this simple stir fried kabocha recipe.
Storage: Whole kabocha keeps for 1-2 months in a cool, dry place. Sliced kabocha will keep for four days in the fridge.
Japanese Radish/ Deekuni / Daikon
There are many varieties of daikon, the one pictured here is the large long white daikon, which is mild flavored compared with other types of radish. In Japan daikon is often pickled, grated raw and mixed with citrus soy sauce, eaten with sashimi, or cooked in stews. In addition to the root the leaves are also edible, and can be stir fried or pickled.
Storage: Up to 2 weeks in a cool dry place without the green tops.
Loofah/ Nabera / Hechima
This vine vegetable is eaten in many Asian countries, or made into the “loofah sponge” once it is mature and dried out. The smaller loofah are more tender, and thus better to eat than larger loofah. Peeled loofah is often cooked in stews or soups, and can also be stir fried. When cooked it’s soft, and mild flavored.
Storage: Keeps for a week in the refrigerator.
?/ Moi / Uri
Moi tastes just like a cucumber and can be used in the same way; peeled and sliced up in salads or eaten by itself, with or without the seeds. It’s also good boiled or cooked in soups. There is a red variety, called “aka moi” or red moi, which has the same taste. Moi is much larger than the Japanese cucumber.
Storage: Fridge: About 10 days stored in a plastic bag.
? / Ninbutooka/ Hiyuuna
Ninbutooka has a slight tangy flavor. Its succulent leaves, small yellow flowers and thick stems are all edible. Prepare this as any other leafy green vegetable – stir fried, boiled or steamed.
Storage: Fridge: A week in a plastic bag.
Okinawan Chili Peppers/ Koore / Shima Togarashi
These small chili peppers are fiery hot, and can be eaten when they are green, orange or red. Since they are so potent you may want to store them in the freezer where they will keep for months, and use them sparingly (or not!) as needed. Here’s a delicious Italian recipe to spice up your spaghetti.
Fridge: A week in a paper bag. Freezer: A year, in a zip lock bag or plastic container.
Roseru has a distinct zesty lemon taste. Roseru adds color to and spices up salad, pasta or potato dishes; preparation is similar to arugula. Just rinse, and add raw to give an unexpected flavor to your dish.
Storage: Fridge: 1 week in a plastic bag.
This green and purple basil can be used just like sweet basil. Thai basil has a stronger and slight anise flavor compared with sweet basil. Snip off the leaves and add to stir fries, pastas, curries, soups, salads, and meat dishes; it can even be made into pesto.
Storage: 10 days outside of fridge. Trim the ends and stand upright in a glass containing an inch of water, and loosely cover with a plastic bag. Freezer: 5 months. Remove and rinse the leaves, and then dry the basil leaves. Place in a zip lock bag. Or make pesto from the basil and store in an ice cube tray.
Water Spinach / Uncheba/ kuunshinsai
This leafy green vegetable is a nice addition to any dish. It tastes like spinach and can be prepared similarly – stir fry or steam the leaves and stems.
Storage: A week in a plastic bag.
Winter Melon / Shibui / Togan
This huge mild flavored vegetable will nicely absorb the spices and flavors of your dish. If you’ve seen it in stores you may have thought it looks like a watermelon. It’s popular in soups, but can even be stir fried, boiled and steamed. To use, cut off a portion, peel and take out the inner seeds; the remainder can be stored in the refrigerator for a week. A search for “winter melon” will turn up recipes online.
Storage:Sliced shibui can be stored in the fridge for a week, and whole shibui will keep for months in a cool dry place.