From left: Fresh mizunasu; Pickled mizunasu
Mizunasu is a type of eggplant or aubergine found in Senshu, the southernmost part of Osaka Prefecture. Measuring about 10-13 cm (4-5 in.) in length, mizunasu have extremely soft, succulent flesh. Mizu means water, and this name reflects the plant’s high water content. The vegetable can be eaten raw, thanks to its soft skin and mild flavor. To enjoy the taste of mizunasu, cut off stem and calyx, score the top with crosswise cuts, then split the eggplant vertically by hand. Mizunasu are also popular as pickles, best enjoyed when plucked straight from the garden and kept for just a few days in a mixture of fermented rice bran and brine called nukadoko. Mizunasu are so sought-after, they are now cultivated in other parts in Japan, but Senshu will always be considered their true home.