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The Yahata-imo is a variety of white-skinned taro, a starchy vegetable similar to the yam, that is literally rooted in the culture and history of the city of Kai. Its superior taste and texture, smoother and more glutinous than taro grown elsewhere, make it a foodstuff prized by the chefs of upscale ryotei (Japanese haute cuisine) restaurants in Tokyo and Kyoto.

Named for the Yahata district in which it is grown, the Yahata-imo’s exceptional quality derives from the fact that the soil in this area benefits from good drainage. This is the result of centuries of repeated heavy flooding along the Kamanashi River, tangibly demonstrating that nature possesses both benevolent and destructive sides. Only taro grown in the Yahata area can be designated and sold as Yahata-imo, and for some farmers the cultivation of the vegetable is a family tradition stretching back many generations.

The Yahata-imo is harvested from late September through October, and the difficulty of cultivating it further adds to its scarcity. As repeatedly growing it in the same patch of land is damaging to soil, crops must be grown in alternating fields each year. Take the opportunity to enjoy this earthy and healthy vegetable—rich in fiber, potassium, and manganese while low in fat—on home ground.

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