America has some favorite fall foods like pumpkins and candy apples, and Japan is no different with certain dishes and ingredients strongly associated with autumn. How many have you tried?
|Satsuma-imo (薩摩芋): Sweet potato
These are very similar to yams, though the flesh is softer and the inside is more yellow than orange. The outside is often purplish in color, and satsuma-imo are often used in tempura or candied as a dessert (pictured). In Kyoto, I often heard the loud, broadcasted voice of the yaki-imo (焼芋 – baked sweet potato) man as his truck passed down the street during the fall evenings. A recipe for a sweet potato dessert can be found here.
|Kuri (栗): Chestnuts
Though more associated with winter in the US, in Japan chestnuts are very much an autumn food. They can be roasted, boiled, or cooked with rice to make kuri-gohan. The related maron (マロン) chestnuts are mostly used in desserts.
|Matsutake (松茸): Matsutake mushrooms
Matsutake are a type of very expensive pine mushroom in Japan. They usually grow under the fallen leaves of certain varieties of pine tree, which makes harvesting a very painstaking process. As such, these mushrooms, like truffles, are quite pricey. The cost has gone up even more due to a pine nematode decimating the population of the necessary domestic trees in the past 50 years or so. High-grade matsutake grown in Japan can be up to $909/lb, though imported mushrooms average at $41/lb. In comparison, black truffles are usually $127-383/lb and white truffles are $2200-1000/lb (according to Wikipedia). Matsutake can be cooked with rice, put in soup, steamed, fried in tempura, and much more.
|Kaki (柿): Persimmon
Japanese kaki are most widely cultivated persimmons in the world. The sweet fruit can be eaten raw once ripe, or dried for later.