Originally written for the Kitakami Times: https://www.iwate-ilc.jp/eng/ktimes/a-vegetable-project-to-welcome-the-ilc/
In 2013, the mayor of Ichinoseki City wandered the markets of Ferney-Voltaire, in Eastern France, and came across a variety of vegetables that he had never seen before; with the artichoke leaving the biggest impression. He asked how it’s eaten and was told that the ‘petals’ can be munched on, much like a snack. This exposure to a new culinary culture and the assumption that demand would increase if the construction of the ILC went ahead, were reasons why Ichinoseki began the ‘Seiyo Yasai project’ or ‘Western Vegetable project’ in 2017. ‘Seiyo Yasai’ is used as a term to refer to vegetables introduced to Japan from Europe and the United States in relatively recent years. Some examples include artichoke, Brussel sprouts, beets, chicory, mints, parsley and leeks. ‘Western vegetables’ commonly found in Japan, such as tomatoes, cabbage and potatoes, are not included in this category.
The Ichinoseki City Southern Agricultural Technology Development Center along with the city’s 4-H club which comprises of a group of young farmers, are at the forefront of the project which aims to increase production of Seiyo Yasai. The Ichinoseki City Southern Agricultural Technology Development Center has tried their hand at growing 60 types which include artichoke, beets, fennel, Brussel sprouts, herbs such as rosemary, a range of leafy greens such as kale and Swiss chard, different shaped and colored eggplants, cauliflower, broccoli and peppers. Several 4-H farmers are also cultivating various types and selling them to restaurants.
By introducing these vegetables at farming festivals and having local restaurants use them in their cooking, Ichinoseki’s citizens are getting to know of the unique produce. In December 2019, Yoichi Harada, the head chef of Asahiya restaurant in Ichinoseki, held a tasting using a variety of Seiyo Yasai grown in Ichinoseki. Here, he showcased 18 kinds of dishes such as mousse, winter vegetable pot and pickled vegetables and gratin which had shallots as a secret addition to his sauce.
Shallots and leeks are among the top choices for increased scale of production. Shallot seedlings are currently being prepared for distribution to 4-H members. The Southern Agricultural Technology Development Center will host a viewing of their farm to show where the vegetables are grown, what the vegetables are and demonstrate how the vegetables can be cooked.
In this way, Ichinoseki City is making preparations to welcome the ILC, in terms of food as well!