This one of a kind business exists of a small, dedicated group of elderly women who live and work on the Japanese countryside and deliver a wide range of breathtakingly beautiful flowers. But what is even more special is that these flowers can be eaten!
In a kitchen were aesthetics and presentation are almost just as important as flavor, these beautiful flowers are commonly used to decorated Japanese deserts, drinks, candy and appetizers. And now (hobby)chefs from all over the world start to appreciate this delicate, tasteful ingredient too.
Edible flowers are flowers that are safe to consume and are often used for decorative purposes for their unique flavor, texture and colors. This practice dates back to the Roman times and has been long been observed in Asian, Middle Eastern and Indian cultures. They were especially popular during Queen Victoria’s reign. As most flowers also have a subtle taste, it is important to consider which dishes and ingredients to combine them with so the flavor is not overshadowed. Furthermore, it is important to consider not only the proper way of harvesting and growing the plants – in order to avoid toxic pesticides and environments, but also to not overconsume them as this could not only result in a poor flavor balance, but also digestive problems. The flowers can be used as part of a dish, such as a salad; as a garnish, on for example, beef; incorporated into wines or tea, and even turned into paste for spreads and
Each flower is inspected one by one by experienced Shimane "Aunties" in order to ensure perfection.
There is a long list of edible flowers and their recommended use. The ladies from Tom in Shimane prefecture in West Japan know all about this. The company was established in 1992 and is run by president Toyoyuki Yasawa. Shimane prefecture is said to lay 45 years ahead of the rest of Japan. Not technology or knowledge-wise, but looking at the demographics. The modern Japanese society faces many challenges with regards to their declining birth rate and ageing population, which, among others, results in shrinking activity in the countryside. For Tom this is all the more reason to create a lively, growing business, producing products from their community with people from their community. They are basing their business model on a crowd sourcing concept and are reliant on donations and volunteers.
The current population in Shimane exists for almost 50% out of citizens aged 60+ and most of them are women. Therefore, the power of the region, aside from the clean air and water, and fertile soil, is said to lie in the strength of their “obachan” (aunties). Tom exists out of and because of these obachan, who want to contribute to the revitalization of the town they grew up in. Furthermore, the company welcomes vocational students with disabilities to offer them work experience and employment opportunities, as well as a chance to learn and appreciate the beauty of their regional flowers and nature.
Tom suggests that their flowers are not just ‘cute’ but carry a message that changes your creations from ‘normal/always’ to ‘special’. Their aim is to spread this message and beauty all over the world with the flowers from the Shimane aunties!