Embracing the dark side of garlic Kashiwazaki Seika Co.,Ltd.

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Category: Japanese Food

Putting Aomori produce on tables

Aomori Prefecture is at the northern tip of Japan's main island, Honshu. A beautiful, pastoral prefecture, Aomori is an agricultural powerhouse whose crops grace many tables in Japan and increasingly overseas. At the beginning of the '90s, Aomori local Shinichi Kashiwazaki joined a friend in marketing nagaimo, or Japanese yam. In 1991, Kashiwazaki Seika Co., Ltd. was born. The company now grows, processes and distributes a range of crops including nagaimo, burdock root and daikon radish. But its most eye-catching offering is black garlic-pickled, dried and in its wonderful fresh form.

CEO Shinichi Kashiwazaki shows off a fresh harvest

Black garlic is turning heads in Japan and abroad

Black garlic

Aomori is renowned for its garlic, producing some 70 percent of Japan's stock. In fact, the prefecture's bulbs are distinctive, holding only six cloves-fewer than usually found elsewhere. Chefs prefer the big cloves, as they're easier to peel and cook with.

But Kashiwazaki Seika takes the region's famous crop a step further. It produces Oirase black garlic, named after the region where the company is based. The secret behind the garlic's production is closely guarded, known only to a handful of producers in Japan. It's ripened in special chambers, and the producers have to be careful with the delicate operation, or they could cross over the thin line from perfect sweetness to over-fermentation.

The result is a soft, silky, sweet and mild taste with no harshness or excessive heat-a joy to those who have trouble with regular garlic's strong odor and spiciness. Garlic is already known for its natural antibacterial properties; black garlic boasts even more sugars, amino acids and antioxidant properties.

Black garlic goes global

More and more consumers are catching on to the benefits of black garlic, both in the health and culinary spheres. Japanese customers have already caught on to the craze, and overseas consumers are starting to snap up the dusky bulbs, in such countries as Taiwan, Singapore and Switzerland. Other European markets are also starting to take notice.

Black garlic keeps up to a year and can be used in the same way as regular garlic when cooking. It can be eaten straight off the bulb and makes for a great accompaniment to wine and cheese. Why not try an old standby with a new twist?

Processing garlic in Kashiwazaki Seika's plant