Elwood 5566

Would You Believe it – Mushroom Wine!

Posted in plants and trees by 노강호 on February 21, 2011

traditional pine mushroom wine (송이주)

Traditional mushroom wine might not sound very appealing but at less than 2000 Won (£1) a bottle, it’s worth a whirl. Actually, over the past three months I’ve been meaning to write this post, the bottles I’ve bought to photograph and sample, I’ve ended up drinking which is testament to the fact it can’t be that bad, especially considering I’m not much of a drinker.

pine mushroom emerging from under a bed of pine duff

The aroma is a combination of wine with a lurking invisible mushroom, which is pretty much what you might expect. Developing a taste for this wine probably lies in forgetting the main ingredient is mushroom as pondering on the taste can only evoke references to moldy bread and mushroom soup none of which do the drink any justice. Once you can put such associations aside, it develops its own appeal. At  13%  alcohol content, it is comparable to stronger European wines  but is sweet, though not excessively, rather than dry. I am not a wine connoisseur, and suspect a true wine buff might find it revolting but  it seems to grow on you without requiring you to be pissed in order to do so.

‘song-i-ju’

I don’t know if there are many types of Korean mushroom wine, as most places I have tried only have pine mushroom wine (송이 버섯). The pine mushroom, known is Japan where it is prized as the matsutake (tricholoma matsutake) is fairly common in Korea and grows under duff  in pine forests though the mushroom has symbiotic relationships with various other species of tree.

an interesting variation

The company Yangyang Minsok Doga, make an interesting variation using the pine mushroom and ‘deep sea water’ though the bottle looks more like a mineral water and I’m not sure what comprises ‘deep sea water.’

I’ve also discovered a splash or two makes an excellent addition to kalbi-tang (rib soup) and am wondering what other cooking uses I can put it to: sauteing meat or used as base to boil mussels?

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Novelty Wine Recipes

I Would Have Played Hooky But…

Posted in bathhouse Ballads, Comparative, Daegu, Diary notes, seasons by 노강호 on February 16, 2011

Daegu under snow and suddenly I need a ‘sicky’

Podcast 70

I woke this morning (Monday) to find Daegu covered in snow; and heavy clouds, typical of the ones that exist much of the year in the UK, hugging the tops of nearby apartment buildings.  The clouds are gray and that they are pregnant with snow is forecast by the fact they are tinged yellow. There is a bitter wind that nips the extremities and all around large snow flakes, whipped by whirls of wind fall crazily. The flakes are so soft, delicate and light that they accumulate thickly on the branches of nearby pine trees.   I would love this kind of day in the UK, the perfect conditions for phoning in sick if you live within walking distance of work, or if you use public transport or car, then by exaggerating how bad travel conditions are. Neither would there be a need to use one of the trump-card, ‘sicky’ excuses, such as having diarrhoea or cancer; ‘excuses’ which are perfect for terminating any form of interrogation.  Of course, a cancer excuse demands further action as it  doesn’t just go away and colleagues would expect further developments, unless it’s posed as a ‘scare,’ in which case you can  script yourself ‘all clear.’  Neither is it likely to do you any favours if your ploy is foiled.

Most people would spare a chuckle for the colleague  feigning  a cold, flu or diarrhoea but a cancer feign is taking  too far and  is definitely likely to backfire,  if discovered. ‘Diarrhoea’ however, is a great excuse because at 7 am and half way through their egg, bacon and brown sauce, no boss is going to start quizzing the causes or manifestation of your condition.  If your boss is a bit of a twat, a few references to how runny your condition is or how you never quite made it out of bed on time, will quickly see them eager to terminate the call while simultaneously offering you the speediest recovery.   And next, with an authorized day pass, it would be a trip to the local corner shop, braving the conditions  en-route that prevent you from getting to work, for a few bars of chocolate, or whatever comfort food  takes your fancy. Then, once back home, it’s off to bed accompanied by a hot-water bottle and a couple of good movies.

It’s amazing how utterly relaxing and enjoyable a ‘mental health day’ is when taken in someone else’s time. You can never get the right feel if you take one at a weekend or during a holiday because guilt at your laziness gnaws your conscience and in any case, the weather is rarely suitable.  ‘Sickies’ in summer lack the potential to pamper and fail to provide that cosy snugness and if you have a house or garden there’s always something else you should be doing.  Climatic conditions which drive you indoors and force you to seek the warmth of your bed or duvet,  the sort of weather which typifies disaster movies, are prerequisite for a rewarding ‘sicky’ and they are even better accompanied by a suitable  climatic disaster movie involving nuclear winters  or avalanches.  And there’s absolutely no guilt because conditions are so shit you wouldn’t be doing anything in the garden anyway!  But the ultimate ‘sicky,’ one which unless you are cursed with the protestant work ethic, provides a taste of heaven,  is  one which is taken both at somebody else’s expense and during bad weather when the only thing you would be doing, is working.

 

a choppy yellow sea ( winter 2007)

In the UK, a flurry of snow is enough to cause trains and buses to cease  and you can guarantee that once public transport has shut shop, half the population will be phoning in with colds or flu or excuses about being ice-bound. The merest dusting of  anything more than frost and my niece and nephew are begging to be excused school and their front room looks directly onto their school facade.  You can’t blame them as in recent years the example of the rich and powerful are ones predominantly inspired by decadence and self-interest.

snowy sunrise (Do-bi-do, Winter 2007)

When I was a teacher in the UK, I probably averaged 10 ‘sick’ days a year, even if I was on a part-time contract.  Sometimes they were taken  because I had better things to do than work – things such as taking an exam or a driving test. More likely, they were because I was simply stressed and  found it difficult to amass the energy to teach a bunch of kids who usually had little interest in learning. I would have few allegiances to a school in the UK, certainly not as a chalk-front teacher in a run of the mill school (as most are even though they all claim the opposite), and consider teaching a form of prostitution.  Indeed, I’ve known teaching friends incite the scummiest pupil they knew until enraged, they attacked them. Strange, how even though the attacks were minor, sometimes involving pats rather than punches, and the teachers of strong constitution,  they had to take months off work suffering from a range of psychological problems – time off on full pay, of course. I even knew one teacher, a teacher of comparative religious studies, who managed to get long-term sick leave due to ‘stress’  during which she  secretly taught in another school. I admire people who hold down two jobs but that’s  genius and an excuse that possibly exceeds the moral boundaries demarcating ones  involving cancer.

bitterly cold (Do-bi-do, Winter 2007)

In Korea,  life isn’t that laid back and most people still make it to work or school through both bad weather and illness and often both! I’ve not had one day off for sickness in four years, not even for a genuine sickness! Even when I’ve had a problem, as I have had today with a buggered knee, I’ve gone to work and simply suffered. This is partly because I’m a personal friend of my boss but it’s also because the kids are decent and working conditions good.  I know this isn’t the case in all Korean schools, but it is in mine. But on a day like today, with Daegu buried in snow, the temperature freezing and the visage from my one-room like a scene from The Day After Tomorrow,  I feel a yearning, a pang for something British and for once it’s not roast beef, roast potatoes or  a pint of British bitter.   The adverse weather conditions have initiated a cultural call, a siren invoking  me to invent an appropriate excuse and play hooky and doing so is a cultural institution as British as fish and chips.  If I was British Rail the announcement on all stations throughout the next few days would be,  ‘services suspended until further notice!’  Suddenly, I realise the mild headache I felt all last night, that would otherwise have been the initial stages of a brain tumour,  are just my imagination. Reluctantly, I pull on my coat and gloves and head out into the Arctic winter, on my way to work!

‘Winter 2007 – perfect dossing weather

Footnote – You know how every two hundred photos you take you have one that’s actually decent?  Well. yesterday I had two which encapsulated the conditions which inspired the content of this post. And then, after ‘processing’ them they were somehow deleted. I was quite pissed off!  Hence the Winter 2007 photos.

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Monday Market – King Oyster Mushroom – 새송이 버섯

Posted in plants and trees, Technology, video clips by 노강호 on February 10, 2011

oyster mushrooms growing wild – difficult to find, easy to cultivate

In Britain, we tend to have both mushrooms and toadstools. ‘Toadstools’ is a term, though not exclusive in its use, to describe those cap bearing ‘mushrooms’ which are inedible or poisonous. Unfortunately, many toadstools are indeed edible and there are a number of examples I am competent enough to pick and eat. One of my favourites, which grows and is eaten in Korea, is the parasol mushroom (갓 버섯 – lepioptera procera). In England, this wonderful mushroom is prolific but few people pick it and it is unavailable in shops.

young parasol mushroom – unmistakable

Koreans, like many other European countries, are much more adventurous in their culinary and medicinal use of fungi and a wide range of exotic mushrooms are available. The king oyster  mushroom (새송이 버섯 – pleurotus eryngii) is common  in markets and supermarkets and is also known in Britain as the king trumpet mushroom or French horn mushroom. In Korea it is a common ingredient in stews and a favourite skewered between meat and onion. Though not particularly flavoursome, when cooked it has a meaty, abalone-like texture. Though difficult to find, as they often grow under forest ‘debris,’ they are easy to cultivate.

an oyster mushroom farm

Baby oysters are excellent in soups and stew and freeze easily

Korea is one of the leading producers of  the king oyster mushroom and grown in temperature controlled environments with air cleaning, water de-ionizing and automated systems,  farming is high-tech.  One of the most successful producers is Kim Geum-hee who now owns six high-tech farms producing over 5 tons of mushroom daily.

Kim Geum-hee a pioneer in the art of mushroom farming

Kim Geum-hee is an adorable character and one of Korea’s outstanding agriculturalists. I fell in love with her personality after just one video  partly because the added translations are a little ‘studenty’ but ironically enhance the videos imbuing  them with an enchanting cuteness.

meaty

“Photo by Catie Baumer Schwalb, pitchforkdiaries.com, used with permission.”

The videos about her success are interesting and well worth watching. ‘Kim Geum-hee ‘had a dream about mushroom,’ and later, ‘after graduating fell in love with mushroom.’ Oh, dear, I have bad thoughts.  When I see a room full of cap-type mushrooms I can’t help being reminded of penises. I’m sure many other westerners would have the same response and besides, the stinkhorn’s botanical name is phallus impudicus and before it  was biological classified it was known as, ‘fungus virilis penis effige‘ ( Gerard, 1597).  It’s not just me! You can poke a Korean in the eye with even the most phallic of fungi, of which there are a number of amazing varieties, and not the slightest link will be made to a penis. To Koreans that offensive fungi is simply a mushroom!

There are some excellent ways to use the king oyster mushroom:

Pitchfork Diaries

Ptitchef

Vegan and Korean

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Year of the Rabbit 2011 – Boring Bunnies

Posted in Animals, bathhouse Ballads by 노강호 on February 4, 2011

2011, year of the rabbit

새해 복 많이받으세요! Happy New Year! 2011 is the year of the rabbit and as the Chinese astrological calendar operates through a 12 year cycle, this means that it is particularly pertinent to those people born in 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963,1975, 1987, and 1999. I’m not particularly into any form of astrology and only today read the characteristics of my Chinese astrological animal, surprised at how closely it matched my temperament, only to discover I was reading the wrong one. It seems you can find aspects of yourself in any character, Chinese or otherwise. Call me a cynic! Apparently, rabbit people are kind and fabulous dressers, a trait also shared by sheep people which is the character presiding over my birth year. Unfortunately, I am a total slob when it comes to fashion!

I do wonder however, the extent to which astrological characters, or indeed Korean names, influence ones character. I still have an essay from a student in my last high school,  who wrote that their name, Dong-jo (동조), when written in hanja (東 照), could be translated as ‘leader from Asia. His grandfather had paid a shaman 250.000 for choosing this name. Dong-jo writes:

‘But without mentioning its price, it is still special because it has a meaning that is still leading me through my whole life. Influenced by my name, I always tried to be a captain of a group which I belonged to. It has been natural for me to be class president every year and even when I spent time in New Zealand, I was captain of our school’s house.’

I have met other Koreans who tell me their names have had an influence on their lives. So, I wonder to what extent your life might change if you not only have a meaningful name, but it is also somehow connected with your zodiac character. I have never been enamored with a goat as my western astrological sign, Capricorn, and as equally uninspired by my Chinese character,  a sheep, or my corresponding element, wood. In what way can you rescue anything from the ‘wood sheep?’ My Chinese zodiac sign is as boring and mundane as my western sign!

Bruce Lee, 'Little Dragon,' born in the year of the dragon (1940)

Bruce Lee (이소룡), born in San Francisco, was not only born in the year of the dragon (1940), but his elemental influence was that of metal. Lee had several names but was originally ‘Little Phoenix’ (細鳳), but as this was slightly feminine, it was later changed to ‘Return Again’  (李振藩) as his parents, having since moved back to Hong Kong,  thought he would at sometime return the USA. When he started acting, he adopted the name ‘Little Dragon’ (李小龍)  and it is by he is known in Korean (이소룡).

Bruce Lee's statue in Hong Kong

To what extent was the young Lee influenced by his various names and by the fact he was born in the year of the ‘metal dragon.’ I wonder how he would have fared had he been born one year earlier, in 1939, in the year of the ‘rabbit,’ and a boring ‘earth rabbit’ in terms that year’s element. A dragon suits everything about Bruce Lee’s life, his dertermination, fighting prowess and incredible physique but having him utter ‘the rabbit flicks its tail’ after kicking an opponent in the stomach, as he does in Way of the Dragon,  is more suited to a character in Kung Fu Panda. I quite envy both Dong-jo and Bruce Lee for having names that gave them something to aspire to from an early age. 

Happy New Year and good luck if you too have a boring astrological sign, Chinese or otherwise!

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Pomegranate

Posted in fruit, Photo diary, plants and trees, seasons by 노강호 on January 4, 2011

Throughout 2010 I took regular photos of a pomegranate tree near my one-room. Boring! Perhaps, but in the UK I have never seen this tree growing except in my garden.  I planted this from a seed I took from a fruit  bought in a supermarket some 13 years ago.  Although the bush has never fruited, it regularly flowers and I’m told that last summer it was covered in a magnificent display of red flowers.

May 3rd 2010

July 20th 2010

July 20th 2010

August 2010

September 2010

September 24th 2010

September 24th 2010

September 24th 2010

Though the fruits were red and shiny, when I picked one last year and tasted the fruit I immediately spat it back out. As delicious as they look, pomegranates growing on street corners tend to be horridly bitter despite their juicy appearance.

October 23rd 2010

My UK pomegranate, January 2010. (12 years of age)

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Magic Mushrooms – The Mantle Mushroom (망태 버섯)

Posted in plants and trees, seasons by 노강호 on December 17, 2010

I rarely go anywhere without my camera and could guarantee that when it wasn’t in my bag I’d be confronted with something that needed capturing. Needles to say, last week, camera-less and in the mountains such an incident occurred. I’m fascinated by mushrooms and toadstools and back home in the UK have learnt to identify a number of interesting varieties with enough precision that I am happy foraging and eating the edible ones. My favourites are probably the Parasol Mushroom (큰갓 버섯), Shaggy Ink Cap and Puff Ball. I’ve seen Parasol Mushrooms (큰갓 버섯) several times in Korean mountains but never Puff Balls. I’ve never seen any of these mushrooms in markets but know the Parasol Mushroom is eaten as it is listed in one of my Korean recipe books.

 

Shaggy Ink Cap

 

emerging Parasol Mushrooms (큰갓 버섯)

 

Although I’ve seen numerous varieties of stinkhorn, only ever in northern Germany, I have never seen any of the netted versions and do not think such types grow in the UK. When I caught a glimpse of vivid yellow in the undergrowth and discovered four pristine Netted (or Mantle) Stinkhorns (망태 버섯), I cursed myself for having no camera. Make no mistake about it!  Stinkhorn mushrooms, even though edible, have a strong and rotting stench that will easily make you retch. Their purpose is to lure flies to that  obscene helmet where they will trudge about picking up spores on their feet which they subsequently help disseminate.

 

The Common Stinkhorn (as found in Europe)

 

The Korean ‘mang tae’ mushroom is somewhat Gothic when cloaked in its bizzare mantle.

 

A Korean Mantle Mushroom (망태 버섯) Click photo for source

 

totally bizarre (click photo for source)

 

encountering this mushroom was a magical experience (click photo for source)

 

massed mantles (click photo for source)

 

Acknowledgments –  the source of all photos can be traced by clicking on the actual photos.

 

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Street Vendors

Posted in Photo diary, seasons by 노강호 on December 10, 2010

One of the most common sights in Korea are the street vendors who peddle everything from snacks and vegetables, to meat, fish and bicycle repairs. There are many different kids of street vendors from the ones who travel around an area with a street market to people who pull up on the side of the road in small trucks from which goods are sold to the little old ladies who sit around towns with a selection of vegetables strewn  on a sheet on the ground.

I’m a total sucker for the old ladies and will often stop to buy something though I’m told they’re not poor. Last week, I saw a woman from whom I regularly buy spinach, unload her groundsheet from the back of a new range rover-type vehicle, probably owned by her son, and then start laying out her cabbages and lettuces.

the crossroad by my school where the Monday Morning market meets E-Mart

the grandmas are always laughing and a bottle of makalli (rice wine) is usually in the background

in the hear of Monday Morning market

This side streets specializes in vegetables, curd, and beansprouts

Late summer

The market directly outside my school

garlic in the Sunday market, the surrounding air was tainted with it’s smell

The street market outside Lavender Sauna, near Dong-Daegu KTX Station

in the rural town of Gor-Yang

cabbages in a more abundant season – winter 2008

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Bone Dry -The Problems of Ondol

Posted in Health care, seasons by 노강호 on December 6, 2010

prevention is better than cure

Acclimatising  is a long process and often foreigners who come to live on the peninsula are plagued with a series of illness as viruses and bacteria take advantage of human immune systems not optimized to operate in Korea. And in the process, especially if it is winter, your skin is ruined. In my first year in Korea I seemed to lurch from one illness to another and certainly for the first few months felt run-down. Of course, people suffer to differing degrees and a few escape it all together.

one of many brands of callous remover

Winter wreaks havoc with the skin. Ondol heating is great but it causes many problems one of the most prolific is drying the skin on the feet which means those with lots of hard skin need to be particularly careful. Pharmacists stock a number of foot creams specifically aimed at dry skin and there is also a small mains operated callous remover that can be purchased in places like Home Plus. Preempting a cracked heel is essential and a good soaking, for example in a bathhouse on a regular basis, followed by chastising  the skin with a pumice stone (available in E-Mart) is prudent. I avoid using the large stones in bathhouses for this purpose as the force you exert with your leg can actually force open a weak spot. on your heel or sole.  It’s amazing how quickly rough skin will ruin a sock. I also use very sandpaper and a small wooden block simply because you can use this more vigorously than one of those small plastic handled things you buy and which break the moment you apply any force.

humidifiers (사습기), I find them quite therapeutic

The dry air also irritates the nose and lips so lip balm is a necessity as is Vaseline. I even put a little Vaseline in my nose when I feel the air the uncomfortably dry. Everyone’s body is different and affected by a range of factors such as age and even ethnicity. For example, the dry cold wind always makes my forehead dry so I keep a bottle of skin lotion on hand for whenever required. Investing in a humidifier (가습기) for your accommodation is a benefit and in a store like E-Mart or Home Plus, the range is extensive with prices from 40.000 Won (£20) to those in excess of 140000 Won (£70). Placing a container of water on the floor, if you use the ondol extensively, can also help put moisture into the air. Another useful accessory are the small canisters of skin spray, probably predominantly water based, which you can buy in a pharmacist. I haven’t used these as yet and only borrowed a squirt from colleagues at work.

the designs are extensive

Personally, I try to minimise the use of the ondol as I often find it uncomfortable and so putting it on when I am either in bed, or setting it to turn on and then off in the period I am out, reduces the amount of contact between that warm floor and my feet.  It may sound as if I have psychological condition in respect to this effective means of heating,  I have learnt it is much better to avoid such minor problems than wait for them to occur.

and the prices vary

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Bathhouse Basics (10): The Hinoki Tang (히노끼탕)

Posted in bathhouse and jjimjilbang culture, bathhouse Basics, plants and trees by 노강호 on December 1, 2010

the Hinoki conifer in Japan

All bathhouses have their own individual character which is why it is always good to be familiar with a range of establishments that you can use when you feel the need. Some places are more suited to nursing a hangover or the flu while others offer particular experiences, perhaps an ice-room which is particularly welcome in summer or has water therapy pool should you have back or neck ache, etc. And the temperatures of various pools tend to differ between establishments. Temperatures can differ in cold pools between one bathhouse and another though I am not sure whether or not this is by design or coincidence.  There is an excitement in visiting a new bathhouse in the anticipation of what will be experienced. I have only visited one bathhouse that I never felt compelled to return to and indeed have found that most bathhouses offer something unique.

The scent of nature lingers in bathhouses; fragrances such as mugwort, ginseng, pine, rose, or lavender drift over the e-bente-tangs (이벤트탕) and saunas are often rich in the primeval aroma. One of my local bathhouses articulates its atmosphere by the subtle use of rock, wood and pine and one of its central features is the Japanese hinoki tang (히노끼탕). Initially, I found this pool quite boring. A wooden bath is hardly very motivating especially as I like temperatures at the extreme rather than simply comfortable and approaching body temperature. But once again, as with so many aspects of bathhouse culture, something calls you back and I’m beginning to realise the bath’s appeal lies both the pools natural materials  and its texture, which at first is quite strange.

Hinoki (편백) cypress forest in Korea

The hinoki tang, is a Japanese style bath and is made from the conifer, Chamaecyparis and in particular the Chamaecyparis Obtusa. The tree is also known as the Japanese Cypress, Hinoki Cypress or simply, Hinoki, (편백나무) and are common throughout Asia and especially Japan and Korea. The wood, hard and almost white in colour, has been traditionally used for buildings, a good example being Osaka Castle, in Japan but also has uses in crafting beds, floors and even the wooden pillow, mok ch’im (목침)  used in bathhouses.

The Impressive Osaka Castle, built from the hinoki cypress

hinoki cypress wood

The first time you bathe in a wooden bath is quite strange. Most of us have spent our entire lives bathing in baths or pools made from enamel or some form of porcelain and the feel of wood against the skin is odd especially as it has a slightly slimy texture. However, in the right atmosphere, a wooden pool enhances a bathing experience, helps produce a more natural ambiance and certainly feels pleasant against the skin.

A hinoki tang in the full traditional Japanese style, with a  roof  and a constant flow of water into the pool by way of what looks like a wooden box,  is a pleasing sight.

hinoki tang with a traditional ‘roof’

a tranquil hinoki tang situated outside and in a beautiful setting

an hinoki tang with the addition of a roof, a frequent feature based on the traditional Japanese model

a bathhouse hinoki-tang

the same hinoki-tang as above, but empty

the texture and smell of the wood enhances the experience

who needs a partner to spoil the ambiance. The beauty of an hinoki-tang in a truly awesome setting

The Hwang-So Sauna in Song-So, Daegu, has a hinoki tang (히노끼탕).

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Monday Market – Apples (사과)

Posted in Comparative, Daegu, Food and Drink, fruit, seasons by 노강호 on November 30, 2010

early autumn apples

When I first visited Daegu in 2010, the city’s link with apples, a local product, seemed very strong. Ten years later, and on the odd occasion I have mentioned Daegu in relation to apples, and some people look at me blankly. Regardless, apples in Daegu, and perhaps further afield, are delicious. I rarely  buy apples back home partly as the varieties are never constant  and the taste and texture never guaranteed. Like many fruit and vegetables in Britain, they are rarely home produced. There is a lot to be said for seasonal fair as the quality is far superior and at the moment, cabbages (배추), apples, Asian pears (배), persimmon (감) and oranges (귤) from Jeju-do) are all in season. I have become quite used to watching the passing season through what’s available in the street markets and am currently waiting to see an abundance of of ginkgo nuts (은행).

Crispy, sweet and delicious

Korean apples are big, crispy, sweet and juicy. I’ve never had an apple that is soft or sour and would imagine sweetness is guaranteed because of the hot summers. Most apples are best about Christmas time and there are five popular varieties all grown in Korea:

‘National Glory’ (국광) – deep red with green stripes

‘Golden Delicious,’ (골덴 딜리셔스) – clear yellow

‘Huji’ or ‘Pusa’ (후지 / 부사) –  light red

‘Indian’ (인도) – green

‘Red Jade’ (홍옥) – bright red which is best slightly earlier than Christmas.

Monday market

However, as I write, I read that in the UK, this years season of apples, though outstripped by imports, are especially delicious as they generally tend to be approximately once every seven years.

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