The predecessor of miso originated in China during the 3rd century BC or earlier, and it is probable that this, together with related fermented soy-based foods, was introduced to Japan at the same time as Buddhism in the 6th century AD
During the Edo period miso was also called hishio and kuki.
Until the Muromachi era, miso was made without grinding the soybeans, somewhat like natto. In the Kamakura era, a common meal was made up of a bowl of rice, some dried fish, a serving of miso, and a fresh vegetable. In the Muromachi era, Buddhist monks discovered that soybeans could be ground into a paste, spawning new cooking methods where miso was used to flavor other foods.
The taste, aroma, texture, and appearance of any specific miso vary by miso type as well as the region and season for which the miso was made. The ingredients used, temperature and duration of fermentation, salt content, variety of kōji, and fermenting vessel all contribute. The most common flavor categories of soy miso are:
Shiromiso, "white miso"
Akamiso, "red miso"
Kuromiso, "black miso"
White and red (shiromiso and akamiso) are the basic types of miso available in all of Japan as well as overseas. Different varieties are preferred in particular regions. For example, in the eastern Kantō region that includes Tokyo, the lighter shiromiso is popular, while in the western Kansai region encompassing Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe, darker brownish hatchomiso is preferred, and akamiso is favoured in the Tokai area.
The raw materials used to produce miso may include any mix of soybeans, barley, rice, buckwheat, millet, rye, wheat, hemp seed, and cycad, among others. Lately, producers in other countries have also begun selling miso made from chick peas, corn, adzuki beans, amaranth, and quinoa. Fermentation time ranges from as little as five days to several years. The wide variety of Japanese miso is difficult to classify, but is commonly done by grain type, color, taste, and background.
mugi : barley
tsubu : whole wheat/barley
aka : red, medium flavor
hatchō : aged (or smoked), strongest flavor, along with 'shiro' is most commonly used
shiro : rice, sweet white, fresh, along with 'hatcho' is most commonly used
shinshu: rice, brown color
genmai : brown rice
awase : layered, typically in supermarket
moromi : chunky, healthy (kōji is unblended)
nanban : chunky, sweet, for dipping sauce
inaka : farmstyle
taima : hemp seed
sobamugi : buckwheat
hadakamugi : rye
meri : made from cycad pulp, Buddhist temple diet
gokoku : "5 grain": soy, wheat, barley, proso millet, and foxtail millet
Many regions have their own specific variation on the miso standard. For example, the soybeans used in Sendai miso are much more coarsely mashed than in normal soy miso.
Miso made with rice (including shinshu and shiro miso) is called kome miso.
Storage and preparation
Miso typically comes as a paste in a sealed container, and should be refrigerated after opening. It can be eaten raw, and cooking changes its flavor and nutritional value; when used in miso soup, most cooks do not allow the miso to come to a full boil. Some people, especially those outside of Japan, go so far as to only add miso to preparations after they have cooled, to preserve the biological activity of the kōjikin. Since miso and soy foods play a large role in the Japanese diet, there are a variety of cooked miso dishes as well.
Miso is a part of many Japanese-style meals. It most commonly appears as the main ingredient of miso soup, which is eaten daily by much of the Japanese population. The pairing of plain rice and miso soup is considered a fundamental unit of Japanese cuisine. This pairing is the basis of a traditional Japanese breakfast.
Miso is used in many other types of soup and souplike dishes, including some kinds of ramen, udon, nabe, and imoni. Generally, such dishes have the title miso prepended to their name (for example, miso-udon), and have a heavier, earthier flavor and aroma compared to other Japanese soups that are not miso-based.
Many traditional confections use a sweet, thick miso glaze, such as mochidango. Miso glazed treats are strongly associated with Japanese festivals, although they are available year-round at supermarkets. The consistency of miso glaze ranges from thick and taffy-like to thin and drippy.
Soy miso is used to make a type of pickle called "misozuke".These pickles are typically made from cucumber, daikon, hakusai, or eggplant, and are sweeter and less salty than the standard Japanese salt pickle. Barley miso, or nukamiso, nukamiso, is used to make another type of pickle. Nukamiso is a fermented product, and considered a type of miso in Japanese culture and linguistics, but does not contain soy, and so is functionally quite different. Like soy miso, nukamiso is fermented using kōji mold.
Other foods with miso as an ingredient include:
dengaku (charcoal-grilled miso covered tofu)
yakimochi (charcoal-grilled miso covered mochi)
miso braised vegetables or mushrooms
marinades: fish or chicken can be marinated in miso and sake overnight to be grilled.
corn on the cob in Japan is usually coated with shiro miso, wrapped in foil and grilled.
sauces: sauces like misoyaki (a variant on teriyaki) are common.
Nutrition and health
The nutritional benefits of miso have been widely touted by commercial enterprises and home cooks alike. However, claims that miso is high in vitamin B12 have been contradicted in some studies . Part of the confusion may stem from the fact that some soy products are high in B vitamins (though not necessarily B12), and some, such as soy milk, may be fortified with vitamin B12. Some, especially proponents of healthy eating, suggest that miso can help treat radiation sickness, citing cases in Japan and Russia where people have been fed miso after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Notably, Japanese doctor Shinichiro Akizuki, director of Saint Francis Hospital in Nagasaki during World War II, theorized that miso helps protect against radiation sickness. Also some experts suggest that miso is a source of Lactobacillus acidophilus.
The Olive (Olea europaea) is a species of small tree in the family Oleaceae, native to the coastal areas of the eastern Mediterranean region, from Lebanon, Syria and the maritime parts of Asia Minor and northern Iran at the south end of the Caspian Sea. Its fruit, the olive, is of major agricultural importance in the Mediterranean region as the source of olive oil.
The Olive Tree is an evergreen tree or shrub native to the Mediterranean, Asia and parts of Africa. It is short and squat, and rarely exceeds 8–15 meters in height. The silvery green leaves are oblong in shape, measuring 4–10 cm long and 1–3 cm wide. The trunk is typically gnarled and twisted.
The small white flowers, with four-cleft calyx and corolla, two stamens and bifid stigma, are borne generally on the last year's wood, in racemes springing from the axils of the leaves.
The fruit is a small drupe 1–2.5 cm long, thinner-fleshed and smaller in wild plants than in orchard cultivars. Olives are harvested at the green stage or left to ripen to a rich purple colour (black olive). Canned black olives may contain chemicals that turn them black artificially.
The olive is one of the plants most cited in recorded literature. In Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus crawls beneath two shoots of olive that grow from a single stock. The Roman poet, Horace mentions it in reference to his own diet, which he describes as very simple: "As for me, olives, endives, and smooth mallows provide sustenance." Lord Monboddo comments on the olive in 1779 as one of the foods preferred by the ancients and as one of the most perfect foods.
The leafy branches of the olive tree, olive leaf as a symbol of abundance, glory and peace, were used to crown the victors of friendly games and bloody war. As emblems of benediction and purification, they were also ritually offered to deities and powerful figures: some were even found in Tutankhamen's tomb.
Olive oil has long been considered sacred; it was used to anoint kings and athletes in ancient Greece. It was burnt in the sacred lamps of temples as well as being the "eternal flame" of the original Olympic Games. Victors in these games were crowned with its leaves. Today it is still used in many religious ceremonies.
According to Greek mythology the Olive tree, her gift to the people of Attica, won Athena the patronage of the city of Athens over Poseidon.
Cultivation and uses
An example of black olives.
The olive tree has been cultivated since ancient times as a source of olive oil, fine wood, olive leaf, and olives for consumption. The naturally bitter fruit is typically subjected to fermentation or cured with lye or brine to make it more palatable.
Green olives and black olives are washed thoroughly in water to remove oleuropein, a bitter carbohydrate. Sometimes they are also soaked in a solution of food grade sodium hydroxide in order to accelerate the process.
Green olives are allowed to ferment before being packed in a brine solution. American black ("California") olives are not fermented, which is why they taste milder than green olives.
It is not known when olives were first cultivated for harvest. Among the earliest evidence for the domestication of olives comes from the Chalcolithic Period archaeological site of Teleilat Ghassul in what is today modern Jordan.
The plant and its products are frequently referred to in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Qur'an, and by the earliest recorded poets. Farmers in ancient times believed olive trees would not grow well if planted more than a short distance from the sea; Theophrastus gives 300 stadia (55.6 km) as the limit. Modern experience does not always confirm this, and, though showing a preference for the coast, it has long been grown further inland in some areas with suitable climates, particularly in the southwestern Mediterranean (Iberia, northwest Africa) where winters are mild.
Olive plantation in Andalucia, Spain.
Olives are now cultivated in many regions of the world with Mediterranean climates, such as South Africa, Chile, Australia, Mediterranean Basin, Israel, Palestinian Territories and California and in areas with temperate climates such as New Zealand, under irrigation in the Cuyo region in Argentina which has a desert climate. They are also grown in the Córdoba Province, Argentina, which has a temperate climate with rainy summers and dry winters (Cwa); the climate in Argentina changes the external characteristics of the plant but the fruit keeps its original characteristics . Considerable research supports the health-giving benefits of consuming olives, olive leaf and olive oil (see external links below for research results).
The olive tree provides leaves, fruit and oil. Olive leaves are used in medicinal teas.