• Kyodo

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Forty percent of junior high and high school students in two Okayama cities are not familiar with common vegetables, a reflection of a generation more comfortable with instant foods and less exposed to fresh produce, according to a survey announced at a gathering of home economics experts Friday.

The survey, conducted in autumn, also showed that the respondents were more familiar with Western-style vegetables than local ones, with broccoli most often identified correctly, by 99 percent of the youngsters, in contrast to the 15 percent who knew what “komatsuna” is.

As vegetable-lovers will tell you, it is a kind of Chinese cabbage.

The poll covered 281 students living in the cities of Kurashiki and Tamano in Okayama Prefecture who have no relatives working in the agricultural industry.

The poll asked respondents to identify 10 varieties of raw vegetables they were shown.

When presented with a head of spinach, 63 percent were able to identify it correctly. However, many teens identified it as “qinggengcai,” a green vegetable that resembles spinach common in China.

When shown taro, 58 percent answered correctly but many simply answered “potato” for both taro and yam. Taro and yam are different varieties of potatoes.

According to the survey, 72 percent correctly identified green onions, while 64 percent knew what a leek is. But while 93 percent identified lettuce correctly, there were also several who mistook it for cabbage.

Yaeko Muto, a home economics professor at the Okayama-based Kurashiki Sakuyo University, attributes the poor showing to increasing numbers of teens frequenting fast-food restaurants.

“As the issue of genetically modified products becomes more widespread, I hope students will increase their interest in vegetables as raw ingredients,” Muto said.

The results of the survey were announced at a gathering of the Japan Society of Home Economics, which began Friday at the university.

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