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The kuwai has a rounded shape with blue gray glossy skin. Their shape resembles a chestnut and is about two inches in width. Kuwai have a signature curved sprout that resembles a horn and is about one inch in length. Their flesh is white and dense and offers a slightly bitter, sweet and nutty flavor. Its texture is similar to that of potato.
Kuwai are available in the fall and spring months.
Kuwai, also known as arrowhead, chee koo, wapato, and swamp potato are a member of the Alismataceae or water plantain family. A variety of arrowhead tuber, the kuwai is a perennial aquatic vegetable that grows in Japan and China.
The nutritional value of kuwai is close to that of white potatoes; they are rich in carbohydrates yet not so much in vitamins. They do however provide a fair amount of potassium which has been shown to help reduce muscle contractions in the human body as well as provide a benefit to those that suffer from high blood pressure.
Kuwai can be prepared and used as you would a potato. They can be boiled, fried, sautéed and grilled. Add to salads, stir-fries and rice dishes. They are a popular ingredient in Japanese Nimono. Fresh kuwai will have a tight and firm sprout. For long term storing, put them in a bowl of water and store in a cool dark place. If you only need to store them for a few days, put them in a plastic bag and store them in the refrigerator.
In Japan, the kuwai with its curved new sprout is believed to bring a good fortune in the coming year, thus kuwai are used in Osechi Ryori, a traditional dish prepared for New Years in Japan. The kuwai was originally called kuwaimo. The name, kuwaimo came from its appearance which was reminiscent of a hoe or kuwa in Japanese.
The arrival of kuwai came during the Heian period from Southern China. An aquatic species, kuwai are grown in paddy culture similar to that of rice. Although the kuwai were popular during the Edo period, they became scarce in Japan after land development led to a decrease in acreage of rice fields. Today kuwai are mainly grown in Saitama prefecture, Hiroshima prefecture and Nigata prefecture and are considered a traditional vegetable of Kyoto.