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The longevity island: the blessings of Okinawan nature Vol. 2


■ Okinawan fruits and vegetables   – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

A. Goya

Goya, characterized by its bitter taste, contains two to three times as much vitamin C as lemon. Goya is considered to be one of the key ingredients for Okinawan longevity. It retains its vitamins even after cooking and is commonly used in goya champuru, the most typical stir-fry dish in Okinawa.


B. Nabera (hechima, loofah)

Nabera is a summer vegetable commonly eaten like goya in Okinawa. It is rich in vitamins and minerals and is stir-fried or used in soup.




C. Papaya

Green, or unripe, papaya is a popular food in Okinawa and is commonly used in stir-fry dishes. Green papaya is high in nutrients and considered a longevity vegetable. The enzyme papain contained in papaya aids in digestion and also has an antioxidative effect. This enzyme is contained in various depilatory products.


D. Shibui (togan, white gourd)

Shibui is a vine plant of the cucumber family that grows as large as 11 pounds. It is rich in vitamin C, and its simple flavor goes well with soups and stewed dishes.



E. Fuchiba (yomogi, mugwort leaf)

Fuchiba, widely viewed as an all-round medicine, contains an abundant amount of calcium, potassium and iron. It is effective in lowering body temperature, soothing neuralgic pain and lowering blood pressure. Its bitter flavor goes well with Okinawa soba.


F. Njanaba (nigana, crepidiastrum lanceolatum)

A wild plant of the daisy family that used to grow everywhere in Okinawa, most commonly along the coastline and in rocky and sandy areas. Rich in vitamins, carotin and calcium, njanaba is believed to be effective in relieving cold symptoms, improving digestion and eliminating fatigue. Njanaba has a bitter taste. Thinly sliced njanaba is mixed with Okinawan tofu and peanut butter.



G. Aloe

Aloe is a member of the lily family. Compared to kindachi aloe in the mainland, Okinawan aloe, known as aloe vera, has thicker flesh and is less bitter. Aloe vera is the type of aloe very popular in many Western countries. It is an effective skin moisturizer and is also good for treating burns and sunburn.


H. Shikuwasa (hirami lemon, flat lemon)

Shikuwasa is a citrus fruit that grows in northern Okinawa, including Higashi Village, known as the longevity village. A constituent called nobiletin contained in shikuwasa eases rheumatism and has a growth-inhibiting effect on cancer. Concentrated shikuwasa juice is available.



I. Okinawa mango

Okinawa offers top-quality mangos with its perfectly balanced sweetness and beautiful aroma. The best time to eat mangos is when their skin becomes a little sticky and shiny. When you go to buy mangos, choose ones with red and yellow skin over bright red.


J. Dragon fruit

A member of the cactus family identified by its distinctive skin color, dragon fruit can be grown without any pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Despite its color, the red or white flesh has a light taste. Being rich in vitamins, fiber and minerals, dragon fruit is consumed by beauty-conscious people.



K. Taanmu (taimo, taro)

An indispensable ingredient in traditional Okinawan dishes, taanmu is rich in fiber and contains more vitamin B1 and iron than milk. Prepared in a variety of ways, from steaming to frying, this plant is considered to be a symbol of fertility because many small taanmu are attached to the mother tuberous root.


L. Shima rakkyo (Okinawan shallots)

A member of the lily family characterized by its unique spicy flavor and crispy texture, shima rakkyo is a common ingredient for pickles in Okinawa, and it is also deep or stir-fried. It is effective in killing bacteria and cleansing the blood.


M. Shima ninjin (Okinawan carrot)

Okinawa is the only producer of shima ninjin in Japan. Shima ninjin, believed to be one of Okinawa’s secrets of longevity, is characterized by its long, thin shape, usually 30-50 centimeters in length. It has significant amounts of vitamins A and C, potassium and iron, and is good for easing eye fatigue and improving digestion.


N. Getto (shell ginger)

Getto is a plant commonly found in Okinawa identified by its gorgeous white flowers with pink tips. Its leaf extract is used in aromatherapy and also as a disinfectant, insecticide and preservative. In addition, the extract is beneficial for coughs as well as regulating digestive function.


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