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May 8 was day for goya

Date Posted: 2002-05-03

May 8 is known in Okinawa as a day honoring goya (go - five, ya - eight), a well-known and essential ingredient in Okinawan diet, especially during summer time. Goya is a vegetable that has been attributed with many advantages to human health. It has been a part of Okinawan culture for a long time.

The vegetable is called 'goya' in Okinawan dialect. In Japanese it is 'nigauri,' and it's English name is bittermelon, and that about sums up its taste. It is bitter to the extent that some people find it impossible to eat, and definitely can be called an acquired taste. With its gaudy green appearance and wart-like skin that resembles Gozilla's back, goya might not sit well for many non-Okinawans, including Japanese.

According to Okinawa Fruits and Vegetable Growers' Union, Goya accounts for the biggest cash crop in the prefecture. No less than 89.5 tons of this bitter vegetable was sold in the prefecture last year. And although the value of the crop was down from a year before due to a lower price, the goya still tops the statistics in value.

A mature-size goya, contains approximately 120mg of Vitamin C, equal to almost three times in a lemon and 260mg of potassium, four times the amount found in green tea. As apples keep the doctor away in the western world, goya keeps the cold away from Okinawans during summer. Even more remarkable about this green veggie, which usually measures up to 20-30 centimeters in length and 4-6 centimeters in diameter, is that its content is believed to not only lower blood pressure but blood sugar levels as well.

Goya is one of the staples in Okinawan diet. Most people eat this vegetable as a stir-fried dish mixed with egg, tofu, other vegetables, slices of pork meat, and almost anything else. The dish is called 'champuru.' Okinawan people say that they cannot stop eating this vegetable just because of its bitter taste. It may take several times before one learns to like the taste, but it is unforgettable. Mixing it with eggs can soften some of the bitterness.

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