Munching on raw vegetables in Japan might be viewed with a bit of suspicion. A plate of salad or bag of carrot sticks in the lunch room often invites a chorus of “Usagi-chan!” (little rabbit!).
Recently, though, the marketplace has been coming up with ways to sneak veggies into your diet that are a bit less crunchy.
A wave of juice blends have punched up their vegetable content to increase their nutrition. Kagome moved puréed concentrated greens off the supplement shelves and into grocery aisles with its Minna no Aojiru juice blends. The famously bitter green stuff is mellowed out with grape, apple and mango.
Ito En is carrying a line of boxed juices, two of which promise a daily allowance’s worth of vegetables (25 vegetables! 100% veggie juice!) in one go. Kagome’s heavily promoted Yasai Shibori comes in an elegant black box with low-lit photos and focuses on the flavors of just a few select vegetables in the “golden balance blend” of carrot, red pepper and tomato. A latte from the same line blends milk and purple sweet potato.
Asahi, in collaboration with Kagome, is trying to cover two bases with Spo-vege, a bright orange, reduced-calorie sports drink with a slight carrot flavor.
It’s not just juice – veggies are also turning up in baked goods and confectionaries. Earlier this week, Japan Pulse spotted spinach and soy doughnuts from Soycom being showcased at Foodex Japan. Meanwhile, Hirota and Beard Papa cream puffs have teamed up to sweeten the deal even further. Their new Vegetable Choux Ice is a six-pack of ice-cream cream puffs in farm flavors including corn, spinach, soy and habanero.
For a quick convenience store fix, KitKat has concocted a literal juice bar, cobranded with Ito En’s long-selling Jujitsu Yasai veggie juice. The ingredients of the limited-edition KitKat include cabbage, kale, radish, parsley, grape and lemon, but good luck detecting all those flavors in the mix.
Carrot and mikan cream-filled dark chocolates from Potager have been showing up at subway platform kiosks, and the brand’s spinach, gobo and potato doughnuts are sold individually wrapped at 7-Eleven.
If you want more of a sit-down affair, Potager runs a cafe in Nakameguro, where all the treats are made with seasonal organic vegetables. Some of their recent offerings included leek cheesecake, arugula jelly and cauliflower tiramisu.
Healthy desserts, you say? Well, sorta. They’re not exactly vegan, though, and even the shop’s sales staff admitted that a whipped-cream frosted cake – yep, even a green one with sliced tomatoes – is no substitute for healthy eating. “If you’re going to eat cake, you might as well eat one that’s fun and that has ingredients that are good for you,” Tomohiko Watase said. “But it’s cake. It’s dessert. It’s not meant to make you healthy.”
Of course, there are always just plain carrot sticks . . . usagi-chan.