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Traditional Japanese fall sweets: Autumn on your plate

This fall in Japan was unusually warm. Only today, several days until 1st December, the weather has finally gotten awfully autumnal. Rain and chill make even the thought of going outside unbearable. Only hot green tea and Japanese fall sweets can chase the blues away and remind of the maple season.Japanese fall sweets

Sweet potato Japanese fall sweets

The Japanese are very good at making sweet potato cakes and other sweets. Personally I think that sweet potato is just too perfect and healthy to be modified. But who am I kidding? I never miss a chance at least to try a sweet potato cake when my husband brings it home.Japanese fall sweets:Sweet potato, or Ipomoea batatas, is often mistakenly called “yam” in North America. But those sweet, orange root vegetables are not yams, they are sweet potatoes. A typical Japanese sweet potato is satsumaimo (さつまいも), and there is also a true purple yam beni-imo (べにいも) from Okinawa. While the best way to enjoy the fall season is to buy baked sweet potato (yaki-imo), boiled or steamed satsumaimo is a simple, quick and tasty dish to make at home. There are much more ways to eat sweet potatoes in Japan!Japanese fall sweets

Persimmon sweets

Persimmon, or kaki (かき) in Japanese, is native to many countries. In my home country it is imported in winter, but for Japanese people kaki is the symbol of autumn. One more significant difference is that Japanese persimmon (Diospyros kaki) is not astringent. It is very sweet, and is often seedless. I prefer the real fruit, and didn’t like this kaki-shaped wagashi.Japanese fall sweets

Maple leaf sweets

Japanese fall sweets, shaped as a maple leaf (もみじ) also look very attractive. It is not red, though. Japanese fall sweetsYou may have also heard about maple leaves tempura, a local specialty in Kansai area.

Did you know why Japanese maple leaves turn red in the fall? It happens because of the lack of chlorophyll. In summer this chemical component (basically green pigments) is abundant in maple leaves because of long exposure to sunlight, but in autumn the production of chlorophyll slows down and finally stops. The red pigments (carotenoids and anthocyanins) are not suppressed any longer, and the leaves become bright red.

Article by Olga Kaneda

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