FEW LOCAL PRODUCTS
Here is a non-exhaustive list of fruits you will be able to find in Ishigaki : banana, mango, papaya, pineapple, dragon fruit, shikuwasa citrus, passion fruit, guava, star fruit, atemoya, acerola, Cayenne cherry (pitanga in Japanese)...
It's in summer that you will find the widest variety of fruits.
The most demanded by tourists are the famous 'shima banana' or island bananas. Usually of small size, it's a well-shaped costly banana, victim of its own success. The acidity-sweetness balance is perfect. Do not hesitate to try other bananas which may be cheaper and very good as well.
Season: all year round
They are the queens of summer. Very juicy and fruity, they receive a special one by one care until maturity. The apple mango is on sale from the end of June. You should wait to be really in the season to see prices get down. From mid-August, the famous Keitt mango is coming (the colour is green). This variety is the best!
- June - end of August for the apple mango
- Mid-August - September for the Keitt mango
Picked green, they are eaten as vegetables (raw or cooked). Picked at maturity, they are very sweet and very tasty fruits.
Season: all year round
There are at least five varieties on sale in Ishigaki. The 'Bogol pine' is very sweet, the 'Peach pine' is tasty, and the 'Hawaii pine' is juicy. During the season they are all good and don't have this aftertaste like some imported pineapples do.
Season: End of April - August
※Dragon fruits (or Pitaya)
The shape of the fruit looks like a dragon. You will find two varieties: white-fleshed and red-fleshed dragon fruits. The red-fleshed one has more flavour and is better. The flesh is soft and sprinkled with soft black seeds eaten together. The fruit is generally mild and not very sweet.
Season: June - November
Small green citrus with a nice taste. Nice to garnish a dish, raw or grilled fish, salad, or to make juice. It's a small fruit which flavours perfectly.
Season: October - November
In Ishigaki they are red-brown or yellow. The yellow ones can be as big as an apple. Halve the fruit, then eat the inside part (the seeds too) with a spoon. The flavour is always nice, otherwise it's less sure to find a sweet fruit every time. Also it should be ripe and its skin totally wrinkled, otherwise it will be sour.
The best way to appreciate this fruit is to use its aroma power to make deserts, drinks or jam.
Season: June - August
According to the variety, this fruit skin can vary from green to yellow, sometimes brown (looking a but like a kiwi). The fruit is orange-red inside, mellow and not really juicy. Seeds are very hard but eaten together. According to the variety, the fruit can be more less sweet and tasty. As for the passion fruit, it is mainly used for deserts, juices or jam. It's this way the fruit is the most appreciated.
Season: May - October
It's a star shape fruit. Its colour goes from green-yellow to yellow-orange. Make slices of it, eat the skin as well but peel the fruit grooves to take off the bitterness. The fruit is not very sweet and doesn't have any strong flavour. Is is often used to decorate pastries.
Season: September - January
Yellow-green fruit. It's ripe when it's mellow. The skin is soft and ripped off easily. Inside it's white and sprinkled of black seeds which are not eatable. The fruit is usually very sweet, a bit juicy and has a great exotic taste.
Season: December - February
Small red fruit looking like a cherry, it's well know for it's high content of vitamin C (34 times more than in a lemon). Like for the cherry, the skin is eaten, the pits not. The fruit is not sweet and not tasty. It should be ripe (very red) when eaten otherwise it will be sour.
Season: May - October
※Pitanga (Cayenne cherry)
It's a small red fruit looking like acerola. It is round and its shape is similar to the tomato heart of ox. It has even more vitamins than acerola, and should be eaten when ripe otherwise it is very sour. Comparing with acerola, it has a nice exotic taste.
※Wax apple (rembu in Japanese)
Harvested at the end of spring, it's crunchy like an apple but it's hollow inside. Usually not very sweet, neither tasty or juicy, it's usually not very popular on the island.
Season: May - July
※Mullberry (kuwa in Japanese / left side picture)
Mulberry trees are everywhere in Japan. Those fruits are very sweet and very soft. The seeds melt in the mouth. As for green tea, the leaves are used to make tea or to make cakes. Mulberries are not on sale, you will find them in the nature.
Season: From summer to autumn
※Yamomi (Okinawa blackberry / right side picture)
These berries are harvested in autumn. The seeds are very hard (but eatable). The fruit is bigger than a normal blackberry and less sweet than the mulberry.
Here are some sweetned preparations made with local products (from left to right & from top to bottom)
1. Mascarpone mousse with mango-passion fruit coulis
2. Yamomi preparation for jam and cakes
3. Apple vinegar dressed mango-wax apple salada
4. Mulberry and guava jam toasts
5. Blueberry and mango pie
6. Shell ginger jelly
※Shell ginger (Getto in Japanese. Pronounce "guetto")
Thick and long green leaves plant, shell ginger grows naturally until 3 meters high. Its flowers are white and the seed pods are orange-red.
→ Dry the leaves and the seed pods to make a delicate scent herb tea.
In the past leaves were used to wrap the rice balls (onigiri).
→ Shell ginger belongs to the same family than ginger. It contains a polyphenol called resveratrol, a strong antioxidant.
※Noni leaves (Morinda citrifolia)
Middle size tree whose the fruit is green-yellow. It blooms all year round and its flowers grow directly on the fruit. Noni fruit is very bitter and can't be eaten as it is.
→ Fermented, juice with high medicinal properties is produced. You won't find easily noni juice in Ishigaki, it is rare and the price is very high. Noni juice is usually imported.
However, its leaves are very accessible. They are dried to make herb tea. You will easily see dried noni leaves in blend herbal teas on sale (usually together with shell ginger leaves, guava leaves...). Its Japanese name is Yaeyama aoki (ヤエヤマアオキ).
→ In Polynesia, noni's leaves, roots and fruits are used for their health benefits. There, noni's nickname is « South Pacific precious plant », « sacred plant » or « all curative mother plant ».
Guava trees go from low to high. They are easily visible on the island tourist spots (Kabira bay, Yaima village, Hirakubo peninsula...). If you think you have recognized a guava tree, pick a leaf, crease it in your hand, you should smell a delicate and pleasant scent.
→ Leaves are dried to make a delicate and scented herb tea.
→ Guava leaves are rich in vitamins A and C, potassium, lycopene, polyphenols, carotenoids, flavonoids and tannins.
Called moringa in Japan, it's a tree with tender leaves used to make powder or tea. Its taste is a bit like green vegetables but it's not unpleasant to drink.
→ In Japan, the leaves are dried to make herb tea. Powder is made as well for cooking or pastries. In India, the fruit is consumed too.
→ Moringa is rich in vitamins A, B, and C. It contains iron, calcium, proteins, magnesium, zinc and selenium, and many antioxidants.
※Mulberry leaves (Kuwa in Japanese)
Mulberry trees are here and there on the island (and generally in Japan too). Its fruits shape is elongated and berries are eaten black. They are very sweet.
→ Leaves are dried to make herb tea. Dried and reduced as powder, they are used for cooking, cakes or pastries.
→ Mulberry leaves are famous for their medicinal virtues.
Plant whose the colour reminds the potato. It grows in the Southern parts of Japan. Ginger texture is stringy and juicy. Its taste is spicy, tonic and fragranced.
→ In Japan it is regularly used for cooking. Pickled ginger goes with sushi. To drink a ginger tea, slice some ginger and put it in your hot water cup. You can also grate it. To soften it's possible to add a bit of honey.
→ Ginger warms up the body. During winter, drink ginger tea warms up the temperature of the body, which is a good prevention from the virus.
Ginger is a medicinal plant which contains among other 9 vitamins, beta-Carotene, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and polyphenols.
Visually turmeric looks like ginger. But this rhizome is more yellow-orange inside. Turmeric is also a spice which is present in Indian curry.
In Ishigaki you will different kinds of turmeric. We will introduce two of them: Spring and autumn turmeric. Spring turmeric is yellow-orange inside and very bitter. Autumn turmeric is much more milder, much more orange coloured inside.
→ How to make tea with raw turmeric. Wash it, cut it in slices and put it in a cold water pot. Boil it, cover and leave to brew for a long moment. Colour of the water should turn yellow for the spring turmeric, and orange for the autumn turmeric.
→ Tips to drink the spring turmeric tea: prepare a carafe of rooibos tea, then pour a small quantity of spring turmeric tea, and mix well. You will obtain a nice flavoured turmeric tea without the bitterness.
→ The preparation for the autumn turmeric tea can be drunk as it is.
→ Turmeric contains: iron, manganese, antioxidants
※Choumeisou / Choumeigusa (pronounce "tcho-mei-so-")
Literally the name of this plant means "long life plant".
Growing at ground level its green leaves size is about the palm of the hand. Choumeisou grows easily and fast, also you can find it down town or on the side of the roads.
→ Leaves are simply washed and cut to go with a soup, Okinawa pan-fried dishes (chanpuru), sashimi, or any other dish. It will add a gentle aromatic taste. Choumeisou can be used to make tea. Just dry its leaves or just use them fresh as you wish!
Japanese cosmetics companies like Shiseido use the plant for its skin care products (lotions, face creams...).
※Japanese mugwort (Yomogi in Japanese. Pronounce "yomogui")
Perennial plant usually growing in all the regions of Japan. In Ishigaki there is also a local yomogi whose the leaves are thinner and harder. Mugwort grows easily everywhere and fast. Its taste is a little bitter.
→ How to consume mugwort leaves: pan-fried with other ingredients; with rice; in soups etc...
→ Japanese mugwort is used as well for its dermatological virtues.
Powerful antioxidant, it contains: chlorophyll, fibers, vitamins A, B1, B2 and C, iron, calcium and phosphorus.
※Asa (pronounce with long 'a': "a-ssa-")
It's a light green colour seaweed growing on the seaside rocks. Everybody can pick it freely.
→ After rinsing, you may use it for a soup and add other ingredients like wakame or tofu. It's a good seaweed to make a miso soup or an omelette. In Okinawa it's eaten as a tempura as well. Its little green taste goes perfectly.
→ Composition: rich in vitamin C, calcium and minerals
※ Umi budô (sea grapes)
'Umi' means sea. 'Budô' means grapes. Seaweed existing naturally, it is mainly grown by aquaculture, though. It looks like fruit grapes but is much smaller.
→ Green colour seaweed whose the grapes are entirely eaten. Grapes crunch under the tooth a little bit like salmon eggs. It doesn't have any strong taste. Sea grapes goes with a drink for aperitif time, with sushi, sashimi, or any other dish as you like.
→ Composition: vitamins, iron, betacarotene, calcium, potassium... Very low in calories.
Brownish colour seaweed with a particularly viscous texture. It looks like very thin noodles. Okinawa prefecture makes basically the mozuku production of Japan. Mozuku grows naturally but the one you will buy/eat is mainly coming from aquaculture.
→ Mozuku is eaten as it is, lightly dressed with rice vinegar. In the restaurants it is usually presented in a small bowl apart. Vinegar adds an acidulous touch, otherwise mozuku doesn't really have any taste.
→ Composition: vitamins, minerals (sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium...). It is particularly rich in fucoidan, a famous substance said to be anti-cancer.