Minden eggplants adored by Basho Matsuo
Arrived in Dewa Province after traveling in the mountains for days, how lovely the color of early eggplants―These lines were written by Basho Matsuo (1644-1694), a revered Haiku* poet who visited Tsuruoka following a pilgrimage to the Three Mountains of Dewa. The “early eggplants” in this Haiku are believed to refer to Minden eggplants. We visited Mr. Seizo Hasegawa, who cultivates the Minden eggplants, in the Tochiya area.
*Haiku is a Japanese poem of seventeen syllables, in three lines of five, seven and five, traditionally evoking images of the natural world.
The Minden eggplant is one of Tsuruoka’s long-standing indigenous crops. This eggplant is round-shaped, early-grown type with hard skin, but with a resilient texture owing to a well-filled flesh, and is used as an ingredient for Japanese pickles. It is supposedly said that carpenters from Kyoto specializing in shrines and temples brought the eggplant seeds to the Minden area when they constructed the main building of the Hachiman Shrine during the Edo Period (1603-1868).
On 26th July, 1687, Basho Matsuo visited Tsuruoka following a visit to the Three Mountains of Dewa. The lines that were written at the gathering of Haiku poets are “Arrived in Dewa Province after traveling in the mountains for days, how lovely the color of early eggplants.” The “early eggplants” in these lines are believed to be the Minden eggplants that were served to Basho Matsuo at the Nagayama’s residence.