- cultivated locally over generations,
- farmers do the seed collecting and breeding with their own hands,
- used in local cuisine particularly in ritual and ceremonial dishes
defined as heirloom to this region.
These are important essentials of the local cuisine and priceless genetic resources of our food culture.
The wisdom of local farmers on seed collection has been passed down through generations. Farmers carefully select crops to harvest seeds from those every year. With their expert eyes, they sort out the best seeds to find the ones most suitable for planting in the following season. This knowledge slowly disappearing is one of the greatest problems we face today. Once the seeds or the techniques behind the cultivation of these crops are lost they're going to disappear from this area and that's the biggest loss of our food culture.
Some of Tsuruokas heirloom crops were brought from outside the city, by travelers or people moving here from another region.
Those plants once may not have been heirloom to Tsuruoka, but by the careful hands of local farmers, the plants adapted to this
climate and the natural environment over time. These food ingredients have become a key element in various dishes unique to this region.
Their sprouting rate is low, their development is unequal, they're weak to diseases and can't be kept for a long time. However, their strong aroma, bitterness, pungent taste, and unique texture gives them true originality.
In Yamagata Prefecture, where a lot of heirloom crops have been preserved and inherited by local people since ancient times, it is said that there are about 180 different varieties. More specifically, Tsuruoka City located in the southern part of the Shonai Area is known to have 60 varieties confirmed to date.
KAratori Imo - Taro