With this being the summer of energy saving, even those havens of heavy AC use like Kahoku AEON are a few degrees warmer inside this year than last. On the flip side, this summer has seen a surge in countermeasures against summer discomfort which don’t use electricity, but employ instead the powers of nature and the human psyche. For example, the sound of a fuurin (風鈴), a glass windchime, draws one’s attention to the breeze and is said to create a cooling effect. (I had one last year, and I have to say, I found it very pleasant.) Another example that you may have noticed around your town is the Green Curtain (グリーン・カーテン) , leafy vines trained to grow on a net in front of a window. Of course, this blocks hot sunlight from the interior of a home or office, but the real selling point is psychological – green leaves waving gently in the wind are meant to make the veiwer feel cool and energized.
Now, one issue is that there aren’t many attractive vines that live long and prosper when forced to grow along a scorching exterior wall in the middle of summer. With a lot of TLC, morning glories and cucumbers do okay, but the champion of the green curtain is goya. A relative of the cucumber, goya (or bitter melon) is native to tropical and sub-tropical locations around the world. It produces a fruiting body that resembles a cucumber with the measles. While theoretically edible, the bumpy goya is one of the bitterest foods out there. Recipes that use goya, such as Okinawan chanpuru, usually include steps to remove some of the astringent taste, and mask the rest with the mild flavors of eggs, meat or tofu.
If they’re so bitter, why bother? Here are five reasons why you might consider giving goya a try:
- Something to write Mom about – the folks at home love food stories (especially if they’re bizzare and unfortunate)
- Your friends and coworkers will be impressed
- Goya are cheap (in fact, someone you work with will probably give you some for free if you put the word out that you’d like to try one)
- Goya are extremely high in Vitamin C (don’t succumb to scurvey!)
- Goya is said to combat summer fatigue
Whether that last one actually has any scientific backing, I’m not sure. But like I said, power-saving summer comfort is as much psychological as it is material.
Ready to give goya a go? Check out the end of this blog post for a chanpuru recipe – it’s easy, filling, and (most importantly of all) completely edible.
Chelsea is a second year CIR in Tsubata. She enjoys meeting other food people through her blog, and is always up for trying new veggies.