Common vegetables include spinach, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, squash, white radish, green beans, snow peas, bean sprouts, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, ginger, onions, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beets, mushrooms, potatoes and a wide variety of Chinese vegetables.

Asparagus is considered a real delicacy and often served at fancy banquets. Cucumbers are regarded as good for digestion and avoiding constipation. Danone introduced a cucumber-flavored yogurt in China that it hopes will tap into these sentiments. Potato consumption increased 40 percent between 2002 and 2007 in a large part because of fondness for Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s French fries.

Bok choy, Chinese cabbage, was once considered exotic in the United States but now is relatively commonplace. Two primary kinds of cabbages are eaten in Japan: 1) kandama (“cold round ball”) cabbages, sold from June through February that have dense, packed leaves, taste best cooked and used in Japan in okonomiyali pancakes and an ingredient in gyoza (Chinese dumplings); and 2) spring cabbages, sold from March to May, featuring lighter, less dense heads with leaves that taste good raw and are often used in salads served with pork cutlets at restaurants.

Mung beans are added to green noodles or sprouted into bean sprouts. They are one of the easiest beans to sprout. All you have to do is soak them for a few hours, strain, cover in a cheese cloth and place in a dark space. The are generally ready two or three days later when they sprout to a length of 1 inch or 1½ inches. Before they are ready to eat they are exposed to sunlight so that chlorophyll is manufactured.

Lotus flowers are grown commercially for their roots, which are sliced and soaked in syrup. Often grown in the autumn and winter in flooded rices paddies and ponds, they are harvested in December, often when the water is quite cold, by farmers who sink to their waists in mud and water and dig and pull the roots out of the ground by hand and clean them with well water in a hose.

Bamboo Shoots

Bamboo shoots are a popular food and are often harvested by people from bamboo groves near their homes. Known in Japan as takenoko (bamboo babies), they are gathered in the early spring and dug up by hand. Bamboo shoots are added to soups and stews and is sliced and grilled on barbecues. It needs to be boiled before it can be consumed.

People hunting for bamboo shoots look for slight mounds of earth at the beginning of spring. The best ones haven’t emerged from the ground yet and it takes some probing of the ground to find them. Increasingly mild winters have moved the season up to February.

Experienced bamboo shoot hunters use a special pick-ax-like hoe to dig up the shoots and can find shoots that haven’t broken the soil surface in what seems like ordinary ground. Soil is removed from the shoot before it is dug up. A white color means the shoots have not been exposed to air, promising a bitter-free taste. The inner parts of the shoot, which are revealed after pealing away the outer layers, are the sweetest and most flavorful parts of the shoot.

Daikon (Giant White Radishes)

Large white carrot-shaped radishes, called daikon, are Japan's favorite vegetable in terms of planted acreage. Cheap and sold throughout the year, they can be truly massive — as thick and as long as a man's arm and weighing several kilograms. They are easy to grow and harvest and flourish in the winter. Many farmers plant it in the autumn and harvest in the winter or spring. It is said the best tasting are harvest at dawn in frosty mornings in January and February.

More than 100 different kinds of daikon radishes have been grown in Japan. Most are long and thick but there also round varieties. Aokubi daikon, which vary in size and thickness from a rolling pin to a bowling pin, account for 95 percent of production. The tastiest ones are said to come from the Miura Peninsula south of Tokyo where it is said that ocean breezes enrich them with minerals.

Radishes made their way to Japan from China via Korea. It is not known whether radishes originated in Asia or evolved from Mediterranean varieties that were brought eastward on the Silk Road. Radishes have been eaten for at least 5,000 years. They were among the rations eaten by the builders of the pyramids in ancient Egypt.

Daikon are used in a lot of different dishes. It is grated and minced into sauces served with fried fish; it is pickled and eaten with rice; it is cut into chunks are added to stews and things like sukiyaki. Japanese eat a lot of it. It contains a number of enzymes they are said to be good for health. One of it attractions is that it remains firm and doesn't get mushy even when it is cooked a long time

Fruits in Northeast Asia

Among the locally consumed fruits are plums, grapes, apples, lemons, oranges, tangerines, watermelons, cantaloupes and wide variety of local fruits.

Citrus fruits, which includes lemons, oranges, limes and grapefruit, originated in southern China and Southeast Asia. They made their way to the Middle East and were later introduced by Arabs to Europe. The world's first sugarcane and yam evolved from wild plants found in southeast Asia.

Asian pears are round in shape, slightly smaller than a grapefruit and have a gold yellowish-brown skin. They are firmer and sweeter than American green pears and grown on trees with branches connected to trellises They are generally consumed with skin peeled off and the flesh cut into pieces that are picked up with a small fork.

All pears are believed to have originated from China. Varieties that were taken westward to Europe and were bred over the centuries and developed into modern Bartlett pears. Pears grown in Asia bloom in the spring and are pollinated by hand using a paint brush right before dawn. A plastic bag is placed around the bloom to prevent unwanted cross pollenation. The bag remains places as the fruit forms, in part to protect it from birds and insect pests.

The Chinese love to eat watermelon and watermelon seeds. Melon seeds are eaten like sunflower seed. The idea is to crack open the shell and eat the kernel inside. The Chinese are also fond of chestnuts. They roast them, eat them raw and slice them up, deep fry them and add them to dishes.

The oldest melon in China has been dated to the A.D. 4th century. The inner fruit of a melon, dated to 2,100 years ago, was found in the Shimonogo ruins n iMoriyama, Shiga Prefecture in Japan. The melon is native to Africa and came to Japan via the Middle East and India. Domesticated watermelon seeds dated to 4000 B.C. were found in the 1980s in southern Libya. Dorian Fuller of University College London told the New York Times, “The wild watermelon is a horrible, dry little gourd that grows in wadis of the northern savannahs but it has seeds you can roast up and eat.” The watermelon we eat was not developed until Roman times.

Kumquats are popular in many parts of Asia. Chinese call them "golden oranges." More than 70 percent of China's citrus crop are mandarin oranges, which are smaller than regular oranges and have a thick easy-to-peel skin. Native to China, kumquats or cumquats are small edible fruits resembling oranges that grow in a tree related to the Citrus. As with most of the fruits in the Citrus family, the kumquats are eaten raw. They are often used in marmalade and jelly but also in alcoholic drinks such as liquor. The Taiwanese add it to their teas, while others boil it and use it as a remedy for sore throats. [Source:

Peanuts from the New World became popular in Africa and Asia. Vegetarian Buddhists and Hindus in India, Sri Lanka and China embraced peanuts as for both protein and culinary diversity. [Source: National Geographic]


Persimmons are popular in China and Japan. In Southeast Asia they are associated most with the northern part of the region. Shiny, palm-sized, rounded orange persimmons are a surprising favourite of many visitors to Southeast Asia. They’re incredibly sweet, though best when peeled, as the skin can leave a dry, waxy residue on the tongue. Though it may be difficult to believe, the persimmon is actually a berry. [Source:

According to Persimmons normally cost about a dollar each. Make sure the fruit is vibrant orange in colour and not bruised. It is usually stacked high at roadside stands, so be careful to pick one that won’t cause the whole stack to come tumbling down. Take special care not to eat an unripened persimmon, which is known to cause stomach problems that can require surgery. That being said, persimmons are renowned for their health benefits: they are excellent sources of fibre and vitamin A, and it is thought to have anti-cancer properties.

Vietnam has many kinds of persimmon such as my with yellow fruit and cado with small fruit. Persimmon is famous for providing a lot of sugar and vitamin A. Persimmon fruits contain as much vitamin C as oranges and tangerines, and their pulp does not have a sour taste. Persimmon can be either round or in the shape of a heart. Persimmon fruits are divided into two kinds: bitter and sweet. Bitter persimmon fruits are edible when they are green and hard, but is very sweet when the fruit is ripe. The fruit of sweet persimmon are always sweet, even when green and hard. In northern Vietnam, persimmons are grown widely; the most popular varieties include Lang persimmon in Lang Son and Hac persimmon in Hac Tri. In the south, persimmon can only be planted in the highlands of Dalat. In Oriental medicine, persimmons are considered effective in reducing high blood pressure and relieving abdominal pain. Persimmon trees can be trimmed into ornamental trees. When their leaves fall down, fruits still hang onto the branches

World’s Top Persimmon Producing Countries

World’s Top Producers of Persimmons (2020): 1) China: 3272351 tonnes; 2) South Korea: 198817 tonnes; 3) Japan: 193200 tonnes; 4) Azerbaijan: 185247 tonnes; 5) Brazil: 158687 tonnes; 6) Uzbekistan: 105122 tonnes; 7) Taiwan: 69708 tonnes; 8) Iran: 30244 tonnes; 9) Israel: 21908 tonnes; 10) Nepal: 2574 tonnes; 11) New Zealand: 1895 tonnes; 12) Australia: 736 tonnes; 13) Chile: 679 tonnes; 14) Mexico: 198 tonnes [Source: FAOSTAT, Food and Agriculture Organization (U.N.),]

World’s Top Producers (in terms of value) of Persimmons (2019): 1) China: Int.$1175926,000 ; 2) South Korea: Int.$115866,000 ; 3) Japan: Int.$76329,000 ; 4) Azerbaijan: Int.$64939,000 ; 5) Brazil: Int.$61833,000 ; 6) Uzbekistan: Int.$34486,000 ; 7) Taiwan: Int.$14500,000 ; 8) Israel: Int.$9899,000 ; 9) Iran: Int.$9265,000 ; 10) Nepal: Int.$1131,000 ; 11) New Zealand: Int.$793,000 ; 12) Australia: Int.$264,000 ; 13) Chile: Int.$226,000 [An international dollar (Int.$) buys a comparable amount of goods in the cited country that a U.S. dollar would buy in the United States.]

World’s Top Persimmon Exporting Countries

World’s Top Exporters of Persimmons (2020): 1) Spain: 212243 tonnes; 2) Azerbaijan: 125772 tonnes; 3) China: 108014 tonnes; 4) Uzbekistan: 97487 tonnes; 5) Lithuania: 13815 tonnes; 6) Poland: 12038 tonnes; 7) Georgia: 10644 tonnes; 8) Italy: 5950 tonnes; 9) Netherlands: 5881 tonnes; 10) South Korea: 5616 tonnes; 11) France: 5260 tonnes; 12) United States: 4465 tonnes; 13) Ecuador: 3942 tonnes; 14) Israel: 3730 tonnes; 15) Lebanon: 3729 tonnes; 16) South Africa: 3009 tonnes; 17) Greece: 2769 tonnes; 18) Belarus: 2577 tonnes; 19) Kyrgyzstan: 2298 tonnes; 20) Armenia: 1938 tonnes [Source: FAOSTAT, Food and Agriculture Organization (U.N.),]

World’s Top Exporters (in value terms) of Persimmons (2020): 1) Spain: US$235201,000; 2) China: US$206192,000; 3) Azerbaijan: US$91587,000; 4) Uzbekistan: US$48600,000; 5) Ecuador: US$21905,000; 6) Lithuania: US$10971,000; 7) Netherlands: US$10853,000; 8) Poland: US$9630,000; 9) South Korea: US$9347,000; 10) France: US$8854,000; 11) United States: US$8764,000; 12) Italy: US$8288,000; 13) Israel: US$7703,000; 14) New Zealand: US$5802,000; 15) Georgia: US$5679,000; 16) South Africa: US$5501,000; 17) Japan: US$4130,000; 18) Germany: US$2655,000; 19) Lebanon: US$2243,000; 20) Greece: US$1762,000

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

Last updated April 2022

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