It wasn’t until the Meiji period (1868-1912), though, that tomatoes, along with other vegetables from the West such as round cabbages and lettuce, were really consumed in Japan. One of the early references to eating tomatoes appeared as a recipe for tomato stew in the November 1894 issue of Fujin Zasshi (Women’s Magazine), a popular periodical. It was common for tomatoes at that time to be blanched and peeled, often pureed and made into a sauce. Kagome, the largest producer of tomato products in Japan today, launched its ketchup in 1908.
It would be early Showa (1926-1989) before eating raw tomatoes became popular. Today Japanese markets are filled with tomatoes best suited to tucking into bentō or used in salads, from candy-sweet, petite varieties such as Hatsukoi (“first love”) to plump, sweet-and-tangy Momotaro (named after a popular folklore hero).
Visit my KITCHEN CULTURE Blog to learn more about TOMATOES in JAPAN. Then visit my Kitchen Culture Cooking Club where you’ll find all sorts if resources for making tomato salads for great summertime eating!
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Elizabeth Andoh A Taste of Culture Culinary Arts Program Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 158-0095, Japan