Ja­panese red turnip

Fam­ily Bras­si­caceae / Species Bras­sica rapa var. rapifera

Gourmet Traveller (Australia) - - The Explainer -

The turnip, “kabu” in Ja­pan, is one of the old­est cul­ti­vated veg­eta­bles and is said to have made its way to Ja­pan via

China and Afghanistan – a jour­ney that took place around the 8th or 9th cen­tury. In the cen­turies that fol­lowed more than 80 va­ri­eties of kabu evolved with vary­ing colours, shapes and tastes, with most of these, in­clud­ing the red-skinned va­ri­eties that were grown in moun­tain­ous re­gions, de­vel­oped in iso­la­tion. This level of di­ver­sity is not seen in any other coun­try and is what has el­e­vated the kabu to be re­garded as an iconic veg­etable in Ja­pan along­side the daikon, also of the Bras­si­caceae fam­ily. The Hida Beni red turnip is a scar­let­skinned, globe-shaped turnip cul­ti­vated mainly in Ja­pan’s Takayama. It orig­i­nated in the city’s Nyukawa area, and in

1918, a red-coloured mu­tant was dis­cov­ered, which later came to be called Hida Beni kabu or “the red turnip of Hida”. “Beni” refers to a par­tic­u­lar shade of red from the pig­ment of beni­bana (saf­flower), which has been used to paint the in­side of sake cups and small plates since an­cient times. Un­like its vivid red skin, Hida Beni’s flesh is white with some in­ter­nal red streak­ing. It has a mild, sweet flavour and can be eaten raw in sal­ads. Tra­di­tion­ally it is pick­led and, dur­ing this process, the red pig­ments leach from the skin, stain­ing the white flesh red and re­sult­ing in a vi­brant, nat­u­rally coloured pickle that is cel­e­brated for its beau­ti­ful red hue. Hida Beni, like all Ja­panese turnips, is best grown in cool-cli­mate con­di­tions. It is best grown fast and picked young, es­pe­cially if planted in spring.

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