Buds of Zingiber mioga
In summer and early fall, these jewels appear from the ground, emerging little by little. A tiny mole (cute one) coming out of the dark earth, looking confused -- that's how myoga buds appear. As a strong reminder of the season, myoga appears in a number of dishes, mainly as a garnish, in Japan. It is great simply sliced and added to green leafy salads, on top of steamed rice, cold noodles, miso soup, sunomono with rice vinegar dressing, tempura ... you name it. Myoga has a zesty tang and aroma, and its breezy sensation is a bit similar to the effect of mint. Myoga's taste and aroma are sharper than ginger's, and they are at their height when myoga is fresh and immediately after being cut or sliced. When preparing myoga raw for a dish, make sure to slice or cut it at the end, ideally immediately before serving, to enjoy its distinctive qualities. When used in cooking, you can still enjoy the taste and smell of myoga but on a milder level.
Among a number of summer vegetables in Japan, these little ginger buds rank in the top three that really remind me of summer. Many families have a myoga plant or two in their backyard in Japan, at least where I grew up, and so do my parents. For me, it is an indispensable little vegetable for summer time. There are actually early (summer) harvest and later (early fall) season myoga, so for some people myoga may be a reminder of late summer or early fall.
There is a superstition about this vegetable: If you eat too much, you will become forgetful. I repeatedly heard this when young.
One of the common stories behind this saying is based on a very forgetful monk called Cuuda-pantaka, a disciple of Buddha. Buddha let him wear a name tag, which is called a myoga in Japanese. So it's a pun. Lots of myoga are said to grow near this monk's tomb, too. Another common story is that because of the strong stimulation of myoga, parents said these words in order to prevent kids from eating too much.
On the contrary, today myoga's scent substance (α-Pinene) is said to increase your concentration by stimulating the cerebral cortex. α-Pinene also promotes perspiration, conditions breathing and helps blood circulation. Myoga is relatively rich in fiber (2.1 g/100 g; 1.7 g insoluble fiber), Vitamin C (2 mg), calcium (25 mg) and potassium (210 mg). All together, these little buds are also said to boost appetite and alleviate lower back pain, hypertension, stiff shoulders, neuralgia and rheumatism. In oriental medicine, myoga is considered effective for insomnia and menstrual irregularities.
While the bud is the best-known part of the plant for consumption, I have heard that young stems can be used in the same way as buds (garnish). In addition, in some regions leaves are used as wrappers, much like bamboo leaves. Myogadake is a young stem that is elongated by covering the bud with soil or similar materials. I have never personally seen it, but it is obviously quite common in some regions.
12 kcal/100 g; 95.6% water, 0.9% protein, 0.1% fat, 2.6% carbohydrate, 0.8% ash
Recipes with myoga
- Petoraaru karei to edamame no myoga-mushi-zushi / steamed sushi with petrale sole and edamame, wrapped in myoga ginger leaves
- Ebi to okura, myoga no kakiage / mixed tempura with shrimp, okra and myoga ginger buds
- Nasu to kyuri, myoga no sunomono / Japanese eggplant, cucumber and ginger bud in rice vinegar dressing
- Yakinasu no akadashi / red miso soup with grilled eggplant
Try myoga in the following recipes
- Hiyajiru / steamed barley rice with cold sesame-miso soup with cucumber and grilled fish
- Kuzukiri to daikon, kani no sarada / kudzu arrowroot starch noodle, daikon radish and crabmeat salad, with citrus-flavored soy sauce dressing
- Nasu no hisui somen / eggplant jade noodles
- Hiyayakko / chilled soft tofu with condiments
- Yakinasu-iri nyumen / warm somen noodles and grilled eggplant in broth
- Kinshi uri no tosazu-ae / spaghetti squash in bonito flake infused sweetened rice vinegar dressing
- Shirasu to shiso no mazegohan / steamed rice with young dried sardines and perilla leaves
- Somen / plain cold somen noodles with dipping sauce
- Sakechazuke (dashi) / rice with grilled salted salmon in broth
- Hiyashi kakeudon / cold udon noodles in soup
(Last updated: August 26, 2016)