Can you remember your last bite of carrot? I mean, when was the last time you really had the opportunity to taste and consider it’s flavour and source? Carrots are being taken for granted in the modern world. We have lost our respect for them. Well, I had anyway, until my final night in Tokyo.
I was standing at a crowded oden counter in a Tokyo backstreet when my friend introduced me to the Kintoki carrot. Big, red and juicy, the chunk of carrot, steeped in oden juice, was a real treat. Such is my ignorance though, I probably would not have noticed it had my friend not raised it as a talking point. “It’s from Kyoto,” he said. I was impressed and grateful. It seemed such a long way for a carrot to travel.
I did not think much more of it, although the name Kintoki stuck in my head. Now, back in England, I have learnt more about it. The Kintoki carrot is part of a revival of Kyo-yasai – vegetables grown in Kyoto which flourished in the old capital before the tidal-wave of western agricultural produce and production techniques took over in the Meiji period. I like their venerable-sounding names, more like titles. Other prized specimens, all on sale online, include the Horikawa Burdock Root and the Kamo aubergine. Kyo-yasai are now so popular they are being exported all over the world.
More details on kyo-yasai are documented in the excellent, Kansai Cool by Christal Whelan.