Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ukon Going Natural

Posted by Mari Rita Tobaru

When friends come down to Okinawa to visit me, I realized that I always had a difficult time answering this question, “What would make a good present to take back home?”  Until just recently, I always answered vaguely, asking them questions in return in order to elicit answers in considering possible souvenirs from Okinawa that would be worth taking back and distributing to friends.
This summer, I found a solution to this problem. Two of my friends from Hawaii visited Okinawa in June, and we started talking about things to take back to Hawaii. One of them mentioned that she wanted to buy some ukon  products. This was quite a surprise to me. Although I live in Okinawa, I’d never thought of buying ukon or showed any interest in products made from ukon.

 Thus, our hunt for good ukon products began. We first visited a herb garden and along the tour, the owner explained that ukon, also widely known as curcumin or turmeric (curcuma longa), belongs to the ginger family. The garden had three different types of ukon: haru ukon (literally “spring ukon”), murasaki ukon (purple ukon) and aki ukon (fall ukon). We were told that each ukon has its own medicinal effects. For those who want more detailed info of its effects, check out this website from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
After doing some quick research, we found out that a kuro ukon (black ukon) also exists. This ukon is said to have a high polyphenol and anthocyanin content (more than blueberries). In the end, we all ended up buying black ukon products and gained a wealth of knowledge regarding Okinawa’s ukon product.