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Kintoki Ninjin Carrots
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Kintoki Ninjin carrots are about 12 inches (30cm) long with a pointy tip. The color of Kintoki Ninjin is bright red with slashing white cuts down the length of the root. As the winter weather becomes colder the red color of Kintoki Ninjin will become brighter. The meats are softer and sweeter than regular carrots; with slightly less flavor intensity.
Kintoki Ninjin are available from late fall to spring.
Kintoki Ninjin are in the Apiaceae family. There are 2 different types of carrots; they are the western type and the Asian type. Kintoki Ninjin are in the Asian type carrots.
The red color of Kintoki Ninjin is lycopene. It is a type of beta-carotene, but it does not change to vitamin A. It has the effect of decreasing reactive oxygen in the body that can cause cancer, life-style disease, such as arteriosclerosis and diabetes and ageing, such as wrinkles and spots on your skin, developing retinitis and/or cataracts in your eyes and/or developing dementia. Lycopene is many times more effective than taking beta-carotene or vitamin E. The skin of Kintoki Ninjin is highly nutritious; it has full of lycopene and beta-carotene. Kintoki Ninjin are high in potassium that can help to carry salt out of the body to prevent high blood pressure.
Kintoki Ninjin can be eaten raw and they can be cooked in some soup and stir-fries. The leaves can be added into a salad or cooked in a tempura dish. Choose the thick ones with tight skin and the bright color. If the base of the leaf is thick and the base area has some green and dark spots, it may lack some sweetness. Make sure to cut off leaves from Kintoki Ninjin, wrap them in moistened newspapers and keep them in a refrigerator. Be sure that tips of Kintoki Ninjin face up while they are in a refrigerator. They can be stored in the soil outside during winter time for a long-term storage. Kintoki Ninjin are also called Kyoto Ninjin, so they are considered as a Kyoto's traditional vegetable.
Because of its beautiful bright red color, Kintoki Ninjin has been used for making Osechi Ryori that is New Year's special dish in Japan and Kyoto's traditional dish.
Kintoki Ninjin came to Japan in the 16th century from China. They are mainly produced in Kansai area in Japan, usually in Kagawa prefecture. The name, Kintoki came from a folk hero, Kintoki Sakata (Kintaro) in Japanese folklore. Kintoki Sakata (Kintaro)served with the famous military commander, Minamoto no Yorimitsu. Kintaro was a strong boy who wore a red apron, carried around an ax on his shoulder and rode a bear. When he was young, he won a battle while riding on top of a bear. One day he pushed down a tree to make a bridge for animals, so they could cross a river. Minamoto no Yorimitsu saw Kintaro pushing down a tree, he was impressed by Kintaro's strength, so he asked Kintaro to join him. Kintaro is considered the guardian angel for boys in Japan and is the symbol of success, health and virtue. His image has been used into boys' May festival dolls in Japan.