What is ‘Autumn’ for you?
Autumn in Japanese is ‘Aki‘ and written as ‘秋‘. The character is made from two parts. The left part shows what it is connected to and in this case ‘禾 (Nogi-hen)’ means the character is something to do with ‘Crop’. The right part is ‘火 (Hi)’ which means ‘Fire’. So by combining two parts together the character means ‘Drying Crop (by Fire)’. Japan has a culture of growing rice plants for many many years and we harvest it in Autumn. Traditionally we dried cut plants by hanging it in the field for weeks before threshing grains so it does make sense that Autumn is the time for ‘Drying Crop’ before a cold winter comes.
In Japan Autumn is described in several ways. We say Autumn is for Harvesting. Autumn is for Reading Books, Autumn is for Arts & Excercise. However, the most important thing about Autumn and we should never ever forget is that Autumn is for ‘Taste’ and ‘Appetite’.
There is some very tasty food that comes out only in Autumn. The King of our Autumn foods is definitely ‘Matsutake (松茸、まつたけ)’. It is one of the most expensive mushrooms which has the wonderful intoxicating scent and flavour.
The Matsutake in these photos is from China. It does not have as much scent nor flavour as Japanese one and that is why it is not very expensive. Another must-try in Autumn is ‘Kuri (栗、くり)’ – Chestnut which is my favourite.
There is also a fish called ‘Sanma (秋刀魚、さんま)’ – Pacific Sauty that is very flavoursome and you don’t see in fishmongers in the UK.
Japanese Sweet Potato has a wonderful reputation and gets harvested in Autumn too. ‘Kaki (柿、かき), Sharon Fruit’ is also the fruit in Autumn and I wonder how many people know that the name ‘Kaki’ is actually a Japanese word.
There are some more delicious food/ingredients that are particularly seasonal now in Autumn. It was very hard for me to leave Japan without tasting them all… 😦