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Konnyaku - A Food for Longevity A Superb Cleaning Agent
A Chewy, “Springy” Food
A Profusion of Choices

 

A Superb Cleaning Agent

Japan is so health - conscious these days that every time the media introduces a new miracle food it is certain to sell like hot cakes. In most cases, it’s simply a matter of taking a new look at an already well - known food item from the perspective of good health or beauty. And often, the food item in question is already a longstanding favorite.
Konnyaku is one example of a traditional food that is being reassessed for its health benefits. Konnyaku is a processed food made from the root of the konnyaku plant as the aroid, a taro - like perennial with such fanciful English names as Devil’s Tongue, Elephant - foot Yam, and Kojak Mannan. Processed konnyaku is glossy with a jelly - like consistency. It is chewy and filling but has little taste or odor—characteristics that make it a highly adaptable ingredient that can be used in oden and other kinds of Japanese stews and fried dishes, and with vegetables dressed with miso and the like.
The konnyaku plant is believed to have originated on the Indochina peninsula. There are 130 known species scattered throughout southeast Asia, but only in Japan is konnyaku consumed as a food. Unlike other edible tubers, konnyaku is much too astringent to be eaten raw and most species cannot be processed easily because they lack glucomannan, an essential gelling agent. One specie cultivated in Japan and parts of China, however, is rich in glucomannan and turns into a thick gooey gel when mixed with water. Add a coagulant, such as calcium hydroxide, to cancel the bitterness, form into blocks, and boil to make the final product: jelly - like konnyaku.
The konnyaku plant and the techniques for processing it are thought to have been introduced into Japan from China along with Buddhism sometime in the sixth century. In China, konnyaku was valued for its medicinal properties and initially in Japan, too, it was considered a medicine. Over time, konnyaku made its way into the Japanese diet as a food to be enjoyed, often referred to euphemistically as a cleaning agent for the intestines, or a broom for the stomach.
Glucomannan, which is the primary ingredient in the konnyaku tuber, expands when exposed to water. It is nearly impossible to digest and passes directly into and through the intestines, scrubbing the intestine walls and absorbing toxic substances as it goes along. People normally expect food to be nutritious and provide the calories needed to keep their bodies going. But an efficient balance of what goes in and what comes out is equally important. Konnyaku is gentle on the stomach and intestines, and its detoxicating properties help the body to keep a healthy balance. Konnyaku is a good example of an all - natural food born of the wisdom of the ancients.
With a warm climate and soil containing volcanic ash suitable for growing konnyaku, Shimonita is a traditional producing area. In the fall of the third year after planting, konnyaku corms cover the ground thickly all over the plantation. As temperatures drop, the leaves fall off and the stalks tip over, signaling that it is time for harvesting.


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