Suguki Pickles (すぐき)

Suguki pickles are one kind of Japanese pickles. They are made from Sugukina, a variant of turnip, and they are one of the few remaining fermented pickles in Japan. They are said to be the only unflavored and unseasoned natural pickles in Japan. They are traditional Kyoto pickles and, along with 'Shibazuke' (salted chopped pickled vegetables) and 'Senmaizuke' (pickled sliced radishes), they are known as one of the three major pickles.

Sugukina are said to have first been cultivated at Kamowakeikazuchi-jinja Shrine (Also known as Kamigamo-jinja Shrine) in Kita-ku Ward, Kyoto City. However, their history remains unclear. They were first recorded over three hundred years ago in the 'Hinami-kiji' (a guidebook of annual events in Kyoto and the surrounding area) (in 1667) and also appear in numerous botanical texts and poems. In the Meiji period, their cultivation spread to ordinary farmers, who started to sell them.

Since ancient times, the cultivation and production of Sugukina have been limited to the delta between the Kamo-gawa River (Yodo-gawa water system) and the Takano-gawa River (Kyoto City) to the east and west, with Midorogaike Pond at the northern end, and only Sugukina grown there are called 'Suguki.'

Sugukina are planted at the end of August, and harvested in late November. After harvesting, they are peeled and pre-pickled before the main pickling takes place.

During the main pickling stage, the pickles are squeezed using a unique method known as 'tenbin oshi,' where a 4- to 5-meter-long pole, with one end fixed and a stone weight hung on the other, pushes down on the lid of the barrel containing the pickles. After several days of the main pickling, they are put in a cellar, heated and fermented.

Within about a month after harvesting, the Suguki pickles, turned yellowish brown by lactic fermentation, are ready.

The Sugukina harvest continues until the turn of the year, and the year's pickling is completed by the end of February.

They are a seasonal Kyoto pickle, best eaten in the cold of winter when you can see your breath.

Originally, they were produced using a technique known as 'jikonare.'

Jikonare' is a technique where the pickles, after the main pickling stage, are placed under the eaves of a house and fermented at natural temperatures. When produced using the jikonare technique, they are ready to eat by spring to early summer. These days, due to the spread of bacteria and temperature changes, this way of pickling is rarely seen.