Polyculture: Shigehiko Suzuki at Shige-Chan Garden
Shigehiko Suzuki/鈴木重彦 goes by the nickname “Shige-Chan”, which is also the name of his agricultural enterprise. Actually people have called him simply Shige-chan, a mark of respect from his peers in the local world of agriculture.
As usual On Wednesdays, my good friend Natsuko Koyanagi was on hand to help!
Shige-chan is a polyvalent farmer.
He grows a lot of cress/cresson, a vegetable which has become increasingly popular. He grows it on no less than 220 tsubo/~700 square meters! The above culture is done on “Buckets”.
He also grows “Fruitical” tomatoes on 600 more tsubo~2,000 square meters.
All agricultural land is rented!
Although he says that the tomatoes are not up to par in summer, they certainly look beautiful!
The best season is in February but they need great care all year round.
Shige-Chan’s hooby is arm wrestling, so I’m sure he has the stamina!
Would you believe he has only one gentle old lady to help him do all the picking?
Tomatoes are not attached to poles but kept standing by ropes attached to the “ceiling” of the greenhouses!
It was very hot that day (26 degrees on September 22nd!) and it was even hotter inside!
The gourds seemed to have a good time though!
Shige-chan uses as little pesticides as possiblle and works with his own brand of fertilizers.
And walking between each greenhouse contributed to a lot of lost sweat if not weight!
His other hobby is pisciculture!
This cress is cultivated in “hedge-style”
A central-heating system keeps the temperature above 8~10 degrees in winter while a ventilator systems keep the cress cool in summer.
Incidentally cress must be allowed to flower!
These tomatoes were seeded 6 weeks ago.
But his very first culture has always been roses for the last 22 years after he finished high school!
Quite a lot of them on 80 tsubos/~260 square meters!
An interesting variety, although
Shige-chan specialises in mini-roses of his own brand.
All roses ae grown in the “arch method” for even culture and straight stems.
Tomatoes ready to be delivered.
Shige-Chan spends every morning of the year (with the sole exception on New Year) from 06:00 t0 11:00 sorting, packaging and sending his tomatoes and cress all over Shizuoka Prefecture and as far as Tokyo!
Mrs. Toshiko Otsuka’s Fig Orchard
Mrs. Toshika Otsuka/大塚敏子
Figs have been very popular in Japan for eons.
They were introduced in Japan at the beginning of the Edo Era (17th Century) in Nagasaki (Kyushu Island) from Persia through China.
Interestingly enough the Japanese consume only a little quantity of dry figs that they mainly use in cakes. They prefer their fruit fresh and eat them either as appetizers (with sesame dressing/gomadare) or as dessertfruit.
They are grown inside greenhouses or in open air, depending on the variety and growing method.
Mrs. Otsuka grows hers exclusively inside greenhouses on a total area of 240 tsubo/~750 square meters.
Once again my good friend, Natsuko Koyanagi/小柳奈津子 was on hand to help with introductions.
It was quite a distance away from her usual area as figs are grown only on the right bank of the Abe River due to the needed sun exposure whereas Natsuko lives on the left bank. We knew we had arrived before we discovered the greenhouses as the cloying smell of the figs had wafting around us into our car very quickly!
Mrs. Otsuko grows a single variety called Masui Dofin/マスイドフィン, a Japanese hybrid.
Do you know how the Japanese write “ichijiku” for fig? 無花果/No flower fruit! At least knowing the kanji characters meant I was not going to make the mistake asking when flowers were supposed to bloom!
Her trees are pretty old by Japanese standards (these can live a long time indeed!) as she first planted them 27 years ago. Her orchard is her own supply of cash to the homestead as her husband has his own job. Nevertheless, he gives a hand before leaving to work and after coming back from work. Either he is a tough guy or a loving one! (or both? LOL).
Watering is done through a pipe system snaking over the whole grenhouses.
As for fertilizer, she told me in with almost naive honesty that she asks a specialist every year to check on her orchard and decide what’s best!
I saw quite a few figs I would lay my hands on!
Actually, Mrs. Otsuka explained me that Summer is not so much the right season to really savor them. Although she harvests them everyday and “ship” them to the Cooperative, the best season is the Fall when figs are at their best and do not spoil easily.
As she accepte personal orders, you can be sure I will visit her again in a couple of months!
Aluminum foil sheets are spread on the soil along each row of fig trees not so much to protect the soil but to reflect the sun and provide more exposure and heat. And I can tell you this is sweat work!
Trees are trimmed completely of their branches around January and you can count each year going along the scars left on them!
Fruit bearing branches do have to be supported and are tied with twine to the roof to keep them erect and give as much as vital space as possible to the fruit.
Harvesting is always done in the morning when the temperature is lower. The fruit will keep their umami/balance then. Fruit are calibrated and carefully put into boxes before delivery.
Mrs. Otsuka pointed out an interesting detail: when harvesting one has cto cover herself/himself completely, especially arms an legs as fig leaves are really tough and their rims can cut through your skin if you are not careful!
And one has to constantly clean the soil of fallen leaves as they rot easily!
Greenhouses have to left open on their side for better air circulation, but all openings have to be netted or birds will have a feast!
Certainly learned a lot again and am ready to be taught more!
Mrs. Toshiko Otsuka’s Fig Orchard
Sshizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Fukudagaya, 123-1
Personal orders accepted
The Nemotos’ Garden
Royichi/良一 and Sumiko/スミ子 Nemoto/根本
It was another one of those blistering days this year’s summer seems intent on on inflicting on all of us, citizens or farmers alike.
I already had lost a sizeable amount of liquid when I reached Miwa Agriroad, my regular Wednesday starting point for investigating the local farmers and their products.
Yuyama/湯山 was still a long way away, but my good friend Natsuko Koyanagi/小柳奈津子 and I only had to wait a little while before her husband obligingly delivered his car to us. For all of the locally made chilled lemon and honey drink I had guzzled down, I was really thankful to make the second part of my trip in an air-conditioned car than on my dear bicycle!
The Nemotos are the second generation of that particlar farming family.
Their main crops are rice and tea, but that still leaves them with enough time to look after a vast “garden” for extra cash.
Natsuko had called Sumiko Nemoto beforehand , and the dear lady was waiting for us!
Taking pictures and talking to the farmers were a pretty straightforward affair as everything was set as straight as you could hope for. The weather having been dry for a good couple of weeks, no need for boots either. While I was taking the picture of the egg-plants/aubergines/nasu/茄子 above, the ladies were chatting away, but always ready to answer questions. They wouldn’t let that city man repeat the same mistakes!LOL
The leeks/negi/葱 did look thirsty!
The hedge of cucumbers/kyuri/胡瓜 had been cleverly placed so as to block a good part of a single side of the garden from the sun and the elements.
These are okra/オクラ, and I’ve learned to appreciate them of late. The Missus chooses them as big as possible before lightly steaming them and then marinate them in the fridge. Make for great appetizers in summer! Have you ever seen their flowers? Beautiful!
Taro/Sato Imo/里芋. The Nemotos actually grow two varieties. I couldn’t see the tubers, but the stems were of two definitely different colours.
While the ladies were busy chattering and I taking pictures, Mr. Nemoto stolidly kept watering the garden. And it certainly needed plenty! He was using a motor pump for it as water is abundant underground.
It is not all vegetables in the Nemoto’s garden. Actually many farmers in this vicinity grow flowers, and I can tell you these disappear quickly form the market every morning.
The Nemotos have a special love for Asters, and I agree that they make beautiful flowers!
They also grow Chrysnathemums and daliahs!
Mr. Nemoto kept slowly walking back his hose in hand all the time…
Here’s the grand old chap at last!
I wonder if I might dress like them in summer.
We citizens seem badly protected, whereas Sumiko San in particular seemed to wear half a dozen layers without a sweat!
Bitter melons/Goya/ゴーヤー are not grown in the “warmer” areas of Japan anymore. They are very common in Shizuoka Prefecture where all vegetables and fruit seem to grow. They even grow bananas in nearby Shimizu!
Tomatillo, a Japanese variety.
Except for some specialized farms, these are used more for decoration than food. Very popular with flower arrangement/ikebana/活花 artists!
These are Devil’s Tongue Tubers/Konnyaku/コニャク. The Japanese love these “tubers” to make a kind of jelly. Very popular with vegetarians and people on a diet!
Talking to the farmers has definitely become a pleasure. There are always little stories to listen to and so much to learn!
And like many farmers all over the world, they are generous and proud of their work.
I shoulddn’t tell you maybe, but I always end up with a batch of vegetables!
“Did you bring your ecobag?”, Natsuko asked me again with a laugh.
I wouldn’t have forgotten it, although this sounds like using these nice people.
To cut a story short, I ended up with enormous egg plants, small and juicy goya, okra straight as arrows, but then I had to stop them!
Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Yuyama, 1898
Egg Farm in Shizuoka City: Bi-Ou-Ran (Part 2)
Mr. Shigeru Shimizu/清水茂
As explained in my previous article I was back on the bicycle trail on Saturday with the difference was that I reached the place in record time in spite of the oppressive heat!
I wonder how many tonnes of feed are contained in these silos and accordingly, how many birds are inside the coops!
After all, the whole place covers no less than 1,500 tsubos (4,300 quare meters), big for a single producer in Japan!
The whole complex is surrounded by a tall hedge to protect it from the wind and help control the ambiant temperature.
Incidentally, I noticed that the silos were also protected against the variations of temperature.
I finally found the real entrance to the compound which opens at the very back, away from unknown eyes!
I quickly met Mr. Shimizu who asked me to wait for a while as he was busy with a small emergency. He offered me to stay inside in the cool, but I declined as snooping around is a bad habit of mine!LOL
It is located very much in the middle of the nature with a beautiful mountain background.
Hand egg-calibrating machine.
I was finally admitted inside, and knowing we were limited in time, I started firing questions.
-When was the egg farm founded?
-How long have you been actually working in the business?
-Let’s see. I’m 57. I started at 25. 28 years!
-When were you awarded a brand name for your eggs?
-In 1996 (that was quick!).
-How many hens (no cockerel needed whatsoever. I didn’t know!)?
I had trouble keeping my hands off these beauties.
-Then how many eggs do you produce a day?
-About 1,200, but that’s little compared to industrial farms. We strive for quality, not quantity (even so, that’ s a lot to me!). We expect each to produce between 280 and 300 eggs.
-You need quite some staff, then?
-We are 10 in all. That’s enough, although we do have to work in shifts (that was said with a knowing smile, meaning Mr. Shimizu was working all day!).
-How long lasts a working day, then?
-7:00 to 7:00, 12 hours. The hens have to sleep. No forced laying here! (good to know!)
-How do you grade your eggs?
-By size first, into 7 different sizes. The largest are reserved for cake-shops and restaurants. The shell quality has to be the same, and the only way to check it is by touch, sight and experience.
-How many kinds of hens do you breed?
-Two only, Sakura and Momiji. It is enough since we strive for only one kind of yolk, whatever the color of the shell.
-That is a lot of hens, still. How long is their life span?
-As far as the egg-laying season is concerned, only one year. Which means an almost constant turn over. Even so, the hens have to be regulary vaccinated after we get the chicks from a designated hatchery. There are many keys to producing a good product (I didn’t have to ask the questions, as Mr. Shimizu warmed up to the subject. I had told him I was born in the country, and that the questions would not be too general, although I would be careful not to delve in trade secrets!):
The hens must naturally stay healthy. We personally check them everyday. This is not an industrial farm where productivity is placed above the animals’ comfort. They are actually penned in smaller numbers than usual.
Interestingly enough, the hens were not nervous at all. Their crests looked so healthy!
-How do you dispose of the droppings?
-Mixed with other ingredients, they will become fertilizer we sell to local farmers.
-Almost organic, then?
-What about the hens which die on the way?
-We ask a specialized disposal company to take care of them.
-What do you do with the hens after the year has elapsed?
-We sell them to a specialized butcher.
-For how much?
-5 yen per head.
-That’s not much, isn’t it?
-You are telling me!
-What kind of feed do you nourish them with?
-A recipe of our own only.
Mr. Shimizu handed me then a pamphlet with all the ingredients clearly stated. I counted no less than 22, 12 of them not found in industrial egg farms. Enumerating them would be fastidious but I have kept the pamphlet for your questions. It is certainly impressive! At least I can affirm that the corn used is not GM and that some ingredients include garlic and paprika!
The egss! I came too late. They had already been collected!
One thing is for sure: a soft shell wouldn’t take that shock. No wonder Mr. Shimizu’s eggs are so popular!
The eggs are transported in a cute van!
Mr. Shimizu delivers his eggs to no less than 21 main distributing shops and to no less than 40 restaurants and cake shops. I counted them, but I’m pretty sure they do not include special customers!
The sign to the original shop!
Please remind me I have to buy some for the Missus’ tamagoyaki!
Shimizu Chicken Farm
421-2112, Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Endo Shinden, 41-3
Shizuoka Agricultural Products: The Yamaguchis’ Benihoppe Strawberry Fields (End Of July)
“Benihoppe” or “Red Cheeks” strawberries is a cultivar which was successfully developped no later than in 2002 in Shizuoka Prefecture. It has since been voted as the best-balanced strawberry in Japan, and Izu Peninsula being near Tokyo, we do not see too many of our fruit on our own market stands!
Now, by sheer coincidence a university student of mine, Haruka Yamaguchi/山口春香, just happened fo come from a family, based in Nirayama located in the newly named Izu No Kuni City/伊豆の国市, who have switched to the growing of Benihoppe Strawberries as soon as their cultivar was made available through their cooperative!
To make things even easier, Mr. Izuzawa/伊豆沢秀慶, belonging to the government-sponsored local JA (Japan Agriculture) office, was there on hand to provide me with piles of welcome information. Mind you, I had done a bit of preparation as I had asked Haruka to distribute some business cards to the local farming community!
Mitsuo/光雄 and Tamako/玉子 Yamaguchi are the second generation of strawberry growers in their family. Strawberry culture is big in that particular area as it counts no less than 187 registered farms!
The Yamaguchis’ plot covers 1,500 tsubo (4,500 square meters), a fairly sizeable land in this country, and I don’t include other pieces of land here and there they use for re-planting and so on!
As I said, they switched from Akihime Strawberries to Benihoppe Strawberries as soon possible, and this was certainly a good move.
They employ 3 people on a permanent basis and a couple more at harvest time.
Strawberry culture is more complicated than it looks at first, and I didn’t realize how much I would have to go through (and more later) through this interview.
Abroad, for purposes of commercial production, plants are propagated from runners and, in general, distributed as either bare root plants or plugs. Cultivation follows one of two general models, annual plasticulture or a perennial system of matted rows or mounds. A small amount of strawberries are also produced in greenhouses during the off season.
Now, the Japanese seem to do all that at the same time.
End of March every year the original strawberry seedlings are first acquired from Cooperative nurseries and planted under into a “parent soil”.
Runners are encouraged to developped and are re-planted in small elongated pots called “Nira” (as of Nirayama) pots, an idea locally developped.
Interestingly enough, the “nira” pots are not filled with soil, but with a mixture of peat moss and shredded palm fronds and some fertilizer.
The fertilizer is “IBSI 1″ sold at the Cooperative. The Yamaguchis were kind enough to show me a bag of it and
its contents. If one can manipulate it with bare hands (Mrs. Yamaguchi’s in this case) there is little doubt the fertilizer is easy on the environment!
The runners are encouraged onto new seedlings into at least 3 successive “nira” pots.
The strawberry plants will be cultivated separately in open air until the middle of August.
Then the vynil covers will be drawn over the greenhouses and ventilators will reduce the temperature as low as 15~18 degrees Celsius to “trick” the strawberries into believeing thay are back into winter.
This is the easy way…
Until 15 years ago, when giant refrigerating ventilators were not used, all the seedlings had to be carried by truck up on the slopes of Mount Fuji as high as the Second Trek Station!
By the middle of September, one seedling will be completely cut out and examined to decide whether the time is ripe for re-planting in real soil inside greenhouses.
The greenhouses are already being prepared and this does involve more work and costly specialized equipment.
The method will then be more traditional with plasticulture system. In this method, raised beds are formed each year, fumigated, and covered with plastic to prevent weed growth and erosion.
Holes will be opened for individual re-planting.
The greenhouses along the road crossing the rice paddies.
Harvesting will start in November and lasts until May with up to 6 peaks.
But that is for the next report!
Yamaguchi Benihoppe Strawberry Farm
410-2114, Izu no Kuni, Nan-jo, 8
Egg Farm in Shizuoka City: Bi-Ou-Ran (Part 1)
Eggs do come in many shapes, don’t they?
The Japanese have always eaten of lot of eggs. Not so long ago, in the Edo period,they were even considered as a rare delicacy.
Since then, with the abundance of high quality eggs the Japanes have turned this supposedly simple farm product into many world-known delicacies: tamagoyaki, dateyaki, oyakodon, onsen tamago and so on.
On the other hand the same Jpanese have increasingly become more exigent and precise about their eggs, requesting for better shape, color and quality.
for a long time I have been intrigued by the above sign I regularly passed along during my bicycle trips to Miwa along the Abe River in Shizuoka City.
After some belated enquiries, I found out that the eggs produced by Bi-Ou-Ran/美黄卵/Beautiful Yellow Eggs Farm are not only top-class in this country, but that they have also been awarded a brand name/controlled appellation by the Japanese Government!
An investigation was long due!
After lunch yesterday I took the bicycle and first rode to their small shop (a lot of their eggs are directly distributed all over the country from their farm) up in Miwa (a good 30 minutes ride from my work place).
A small shop it is, but interestingly enough you can buy eggs there through a vending machine almost all day long (that is until everything has disappeared in spite of being re-filled regularly.
A look at the praise received in many neswpapers and TV interviews.
Beautiful eggs inside the vending machine!
Sakura Mixed batch: 300 yen for 12
Sakura Small: 300 yen for 12
Sakura Large: 300 yen for 11
Red Treasure Medium: 300 yen for 11
Red Treasure Large: 300 yen for 10
Onsen tamago: Eggs slowly cooked into running yolk soft-boiled eggs. A delicacy!
Eggs waiting to go!
Home-made chiffon cakes on sale!
Very eclectic: they also sell fresh products from neighbors’ gardens!
From the left bank of Abe River in Ashikubo District.
People/employees at the shop were very kind. They put me through to the farm where Mr. Shimizu and employees are raising their chicken.
Intervieing on that very day was not possible. Wrong time! They were busy at something I couldn’t catch on the phone.
Nevertheless, Mr. Shimizu, who didn’t seem to understand much of what I was trying to tell me agreed on an interview at the farm tomorrow, Staurday, at 13:30!
Their farm is still a 10 more miute ride up river.
Knowing myself and having some time on hand, I decided to find the farm as directions were a bit scant.
Even knowing the address is not much help in the country where almost nothing is indicated.
At least the Ashikubo River was easy to find.
That did not prevent me from venturing onto the wrong bank of the river!
But riding a bicycle has an enormous advantage: it does not matter how many times you get lost, you will eventually find your way around, whereas by car would tax any driver heavily!
As I said I took the wrong (larger) road.
So I turned back and enetered th very narrow road along the left bank of Ashikubo River.
I can’t miss it on Saturday thanks to the little red Shinto Gate (Torii) at its entrance!
Neither wide nor long, the Ashikubo River is renown for for its great water coming down the nearby mountain slpes all year round. The Abe River might get completely dry, but not this little river.
Even now, many local Sake Breweries come here to collect water in large tanks!
No wonder that the farm has chosen this location. A constant supply of water ought to be vital!
Still a long way to ride. Two cars would be in real difficulty if they happened to meet halfway.
I finally reached my destination, although I didn’t know for sure at first!
No sign at the entrance, and no clue of how such a farm should look like from the outside.
But the fact I was born in farmland did help me as I noticed some silos obviously used to store feed.
But i couldn’t see any bird in spite of the imposing size of the farmiong complex.
Bear in imd I was in the middle of nature without a homestead within sight (that is on the left bank).
The heat was a scorching 35 degrees by then and I wondered how chickn could be kept inside. But,… I also noticed large ventilators here and there. I couldn’t be wrong be wrong (if I were I was in for a long frustrating search!)!
Since the appointment was not not for that particular day and knowing people working there were very busy, I rode a few seconds on until I found a side entrance,… and heard the unmistakable sound of chicken and roosters an\mid the roaring of the giant ventilators!
I certainly felt relieved knowing it would be a faster ride thanks to my little investigation next Saturday!
An employee did notice me and came to me without being asked to check if I was looking for something or somebody. I explained (after a polite greetings and taking off my shades) that I would come on Saturday and was just checking my way.
-”I see! See you, then!”
Mochizukis’ Garden in Yuyama
Yuyama district lies along the western bank of the Abe River in Shizuoka City.
There is barely enough land to cultivate under the steep slopes of the surrounding mountains, but it means plenty of good water all day long whatever the weather.
All this water still needs to be funnelled into the right patterns between the many plots, regularly maintained and re-inforced with stone and concrete, otherwise the water will turn into a plague in rainy weather carrying off everything on its way to the Abe River.
Once again my good friend Mrs. Natsuko Koyanagi was on hand to help me talk with shy farmers. Whereas an unknown foreign would have some difficulty engaging in a conversation on his own with locals, a local celebrity makes things a lot easier!
Looking forward to the next cucumber crop!
Mr. Toshihiro Mochizuki and his wife, Akiko, are the 4th generation looking after this garden spreading over 200 tsubo (multiply by 2.3 to convert into square metres!).
Red shiso! Love their juices!
Unfortunately, it could be the end of that particular line because their children are not tempted to follow their vocation in spite of their parents’ enthusiasm.
Now, what might be these?
Myoga ginger! No way I could have guessed they were hiddden under all these leaves!
It is a pity that these farmers (many in the region are in the same predicament) cannot convince (they even discourage their siblings in many cases) their children to take on farming and agriculture.
The local government have finally understood the situation and are taking measures to attract youg people back to farming.
Green asparaguses, but not edible any more!
The Mochizukis were formerly growing rice and green tea only. Now they grow more than 20 varieties of vegetables (10% are ending on their own table) atop of rice. They stopped growing green tea which is strenuous business on slopes that are almost vertical.
Now, what can be this vegetable/tuber? I forgot to ask, silly me! Anyone knows?
Like many farmers, they buy their fertilizers from the local Farmers Association Cooperaive and sell most of their produce at the Miwa Agriroad (JA) Market nearby (Abeguchi) that I have already mentioned.
Corn! Love these!
I personally enjoy talking and learning from these people of the land. You never know. What would happen if we suddenly all had to grow our food?
I forgot to ask about these, too! Please help me!LOL
Have you ever heard of Ry Cooder’s Taxes On The Farmer Feeds Us All?
….The farmer is the man who feeds us all…
A case in point!
Mochizukis’ Garden & Farm
Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Yuyama, 826
Asabata District in Shizuoka City has been long known as a farming community area. It used to be mostly marshlands in the very far past but is now almost exclusively farmland.
I just cannot count the times I have leisurely cycled through that area. Even so I still make a lot of discoveries.
The other Sunday, as I had little to do, I thought of cycling again through that particular area.
That is when I found Aoi Farm just in front of a rehabilitation hospital.
There are many almost identical farms in the vicinity. But this one looked a bit different.
It was bleeding hot and the sharp sun prevented me from taking good shots.
“Please visit freely”, the sign said. I gladly obliged.
A lady was watering the fruit trees there.
“Good afternoon! May I take some pictures please?” I asked somewhat impertinently
“Please, do as you like!”
“Thank you so much!”
It was not all fruit trees but also flowers and all kind of decorative trees. All could be bought right away. Cypresses, Japanese maples and many trees I just was ignorant of their names.
What kind of pine is that…?
That’s a blueberry tree? No way! But that’s what the name tag says!
About time I politely introduced myself!
I returned to the lady and explained the “real reason” I came here. She was certainly caught by surprise and replied I’d better talk to her husband.
(Tell the truth I prefer interviewing ladies to gentlemen, whatever their age! LOL)
Let’s take a pic of those roses on the way…
Her husband went by the name of Takao Inaba.
A bit shy, he was nonetheless very kind and patient with me!
At the age of 62 he retired in 2007 from his “usual” farming job (that is, growing rice) and has been working on his orchard for 3 years now.
These big fruits are blueberries? Well, I didn’t want look stupid with more foolish questions, so I refrained from asking (LOL).
These look like blueberries!
Blueberries are the main culture, no less than 90 varieties.
-Sure! But since our customers wouldn’t know even a few of them, I just strive on cultivating delicious ones…
Since this is a blueberry farm, let’s take more pics!
-What is the total area?
-900 tsubo (multiply this by 2.3 to convert into square metres)
-What kind of fertilizers do you use?
-That depends on the season, but I get all of them directly from the farmers’ Cooperative!
-Apart of blueberries, what do you mainly grow?
-Citrus varieties, especially mikan (mandarines).
-Recently the weather has been quite unpredictable. Any problems?
-Plenty! The weather has indeed gone mad!
Blueberries as big as my thumb nail!
-Do you have any children?
-Sure, I do!
-Are they farming, too?
-No way! Impossible!
-Why is that?
-I would be able to pay tem only 200 yen (2 US$) an hour!
These blueberry trees are not for sale. Their fruit are sold at the Farmers’ Cooperative.
Takao Inaba, in spite of retiring, apparently had to continue working and I can guarantee you that at the age of 65 he is fighting hard!
He told me that he was feeling his age, but he was certainly far healthier than a lot of people of his age that I know! Life as a farmer might be tough, but it is healthy!
Are these dwarf apples?
I’ll have to ask during my next visit!
Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Asabata, Akamatsu, 7
Holidays: Mondays & Tuesdays
Mrs. Jitsuko Ishihara’s Zucchini!
In Japan, like in any country worth its salt and name, you always need a little help from your friends. And when that applies to agriculture and farmers, it is simply vital!
Luckily enough, I’m blessed with this tireless lady friend, namely Mrs. Natsuko Koyanagi, the recognized leader of all those farmer housewives selling their produce at Agriroad in Shizuoka City!
When you realize that the community accounts for more than a hundred members, interviewing simply becomes a pleasure!
Lat year she introduced me to this sweet ladyfarmer, Mrs. Jitsuko Ishihara who has a special fondness for zucchini, especially of the colourful round kind!
Sorry for the small pic, but it was taken last year, as the lady was busy up in the mountain harvesting tea with her husband tis morning!
But in the Shizuoka (and elsewhere in Japan) countryside you don’t need a key to open a fence. Natsuko gave her a call to inform her that that strange foreigner (-”You know, the Frenchman who loved your zucchini last year?”) wanted to have another look at those beautiful vegetables. -”Is it ok for us to visit your field/garden?”
-”No problem, you know the place! Thanks for taking hime around!”
Simple as that!
Since I have started writing these local agriculture articles for the prefectural government I intend to conduct a full interview of Mrs. Ishihara very soon!
Natsuko, having given me a ride to Yuyama, along the Abe River (a good 5 minutes ride. For once, I was happy to leave my bicycle!) we were soon trampling Mrs. Ishihara’s domain and taking pics.
Not a really easy task as you have to delve deep under those large leaves with insects buzzing in your eyes (we are in the middle of the reason!
There was no way I could leave the place without a hoard of those little treasures…
-”Natsuko, could you please ask Mr. Ishihara if I can have some of these?”
Natsuko was soon talking over her mobile phone (at least one reason to welcome IT in farms, thus cutting distances to zero!”)
-”She says she’ll be glad to let you pick one of your choice back home!” (Sweet lady!)
-”No, I mean to buy 3 or 4 of them! Ask her if I may, and how much she wants for them!”
-”She says you can take 3 or 4 of them at 100 yen a piece (just over 1 US$)!”
-”But that’s ridiculously cheap (they would fetch 4 times as much in a supermarket) for a zucchini I need two hands to wrap them completely, and moreover fresh and of such a quality!”
Well, I did go away with my 4 beauties for a grand total of 400 yen! I tried to explain they would be served tonight at a friend’s izakaya who would be ready to the real price, but to no avail!
I will make sure my friends at Yasaitei in Shizuoka City know where these zucchini come from and answer their guests’ queries!
Do visit this great place, an institution here in Shizuoka Prefecture!
They will prepare and serve these zucchini according to your preferences, probably as tempura, steamed or fried with superb olive oil!
Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Tokiwa-Cho, 1-6-2 Green Heights Wamon 1-C
Business hours: 17:30~22:00
Closed on Sundays
Reservations highly recommended
Seating: 6 at counter + 20 at tables
Set Courses: 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 yen
Shizuoka Agricultural Products: Shizuoka Miwa Agriroad (revisited)
As I’m starting writing articles on farming for the local government who have recently decided to promote farming on a grand scale, I thought it was about time to have a deeper look at Agriroad, one of the many local markets run by local farmers associations, notably farmers’ wives.
It is not big by any standards, but the local know you will find products of great quality and freshness as they start queuing up well before 9:30 a.m. when the market opens!
It is not all about food! And I can assure all those beautiful flowers, cut moments before, disappear very quickly!
First things first. I know that I will have a few minutes to spare before all the best morsels vanish from view!
Basket in hand I hunt along the venerable ladies and gentlemen sent by their families to grab food for their home pots! I can talk to peple and take photographs later!
Those round yellow zucchini were soon hidden at the bottom of my basket.
All vegetables bear the name of their grower and the sale date limit and (ridiculously) cheap prices! Most are organic, too!
Benihoppe/red cheeks strawberries, a strain first grown in Shizuoka in 2002!
Italians are welcome with all these sweet tomatoes!
My good friend, Mres. Natsuko Koyanagi, preparing Yomogu Kintsuba cakes, a vegan treat!
My students took care of these later!
Traditional Japanese sugar cakes (vegan!) prepared by some of the 100+ members!
Great jams made with local fruit and no additives or preservatives!
Japanese home-made cheese cakes!
No need to cook at home. Take these yummy tempura back home! All labelled with the name of their creator and all ingredients used!
More food for vegans!
Would you believe that these tradtional Japanese desserts qualify as vegan!
These are the vegetables I bought for an izakaya owner friend of mine:
3 yellow round zucchini, 1 bunch of fresh young carrots, 2 bunches of Hatsuka Daikon (“Twenty Days Daikon), 1 bunch of gobo/burdock root, all organic.
4 US $!
Shizuoka Miwa Agriroad (JA)
〒421-2114 Shizuoka Shi, Aoi Ku, Abeguchishinden, 537-1.
Business hours: 09:30~15:30 (from 08:30 on Saturday, Sunday and Holidays)
11 years ago, farmers’ wives living in Miwa and in the vicinity of the Abe River in Shizuoka City founded Agriroad (Agricultural Road) Miwa with the help of JA.
A good friend of mine who lives nearby had told me many a time about it and had strongly recommended me to visit it, but it seemed I needed something special prod me into action.
Actually, the opportunity that finally triggered me into cycling all the way on a blistering hot Wednesday morning was a round orange zucchini I discovered last week at Bu-Ichi, a favourite izakaya of mine. When the Oyakata/Chef-owner mentioned it had been grown in Miwa, I had no recourse but to check for myself!
So, I arrived in JA Agriroad Miwa at exactly 9:30, its opening hour (I did not know…).
It is a small establishment by all accounts, but before I talked to anyone I had a look at the wares on sale.
All vegetables are not only grown in the vicinity, making them easily traceable, but all labels featured the name of its grower and the date of harvest!
The place was crowded with local people, but also a few obvious “strangers” (not mentioning the barging expat!) were seen coming in cars apparently knowing well what they intended to buy. I found out later that some of were clever owners of restaurants downtown (a good 10 km away, mind you!).
The quality would have been enough to warrant regular visits and the originality (Shizuoka goya, for example) of some vegetables should attract many a food critique.
But the prices! Absolutely ridiculously low! How do they make business?
Try to decipher the prices on the following pictures:
That is when I noticed one of the employees (actually they work in shifts on a association basis) cooking “Kin Tsuba” cakes (their name comes from the shape of a samurai sword guard). They are made of a batter containing “yomogi”, a plant common all over Japan and “Anko”/Japanese azuki beans sweatmeats. The lady answered to the name of Natsuko Koyanagi (Small Willow). We quickly started chatting and the “interview” became a real pleasure with lthe dear ady needing no prodding into answering my questions. I actually obtained more than I bargained for!
The cakes were not on sale as they had all been ordered early in the morning. The poor lady had to refuse them to all local customers who seemed to have a developped a particular liking for them! I felt a bit embarrassed (and pleased) when she offered me one when no one was looking!
Hot and freshly cooked, it ate like a delicious pancake!
This was when I mentioned that round orange zucchini that Rowena would like so much to find about.
She knew the lady who grew them and so generously offered to drive me to her place as soon as she had fished cooking all those cakes!
I certainly had a great time visiting her friend’s plots after I had been invited to refeshments in her home!
Unfortunately, this was the end of the season for zucchini/courgettes and the treasures I had been looking for were all gone!
But when I mentioned all those flowers that seemed to go to waste, I asked the two ladies if they knew how to cook them. They did not! Taste Memory Girl will never believe me!
At last I could give something back! I told them at least three ways to cook them, and Mrs. Koyanagi started picking them up in earnest!
Unfortunately again, I could not stay too long with them as work was waiting for me, but you can expect more articles as I plan to cycle there regularly!
Problem is that they might ask me to contribute to their recipes. LOL.
〒421-2114 Shizuoka Shi, Aoi Ku, Abeguchishinden, 537-1.
Business hours: 09:30~15:30 (from 08:30 on Saturday, Sunday and Holidays)
Shizuoka Prefecture, especially its Western half has acquired a national reputation for its great tomatoes, notably plum tomatoes and “Aamera” varieties.
The other day, as I had some time, I decided to have a look at the small supermarket inside Kakegawa City JR Station as it specializes in Shizuoka Prefecture products from sake to vegetables, jams, spices and a lot more.
I discovered a new variety of tomatoes called “Candy Tomatoes” grown by Mr. Fukuda,a grower established in Kakegawa City.
They not only make for great presentation, but they are very firm, tasty and sweet. I had some difficulty to keep some for the Missus as I wanted to eat them at once!
Problem is that the Missus wants me to get some regularly on my way back from University!
Kakegawa City Station
Free dial: 0120-471056
Although the asparaguses season is almost finished in Shizuoka, we still get plenty from other parts of the country as people here show an insatiable taste for them.
The Japanese and Sizuokaites will practically eat only the green variety although the latter does comprise a host of sub varieties. Here the trend is for large specimens like the ones grown in Shimizu Ku as demonstrated in the picture above sauteed with Chinese XO Sauce by Hana Oto Izakaya in Shizuoka City. A way that surely please the likes of Foodhoe and Bill!
Shizuoka ladies do have their own way to cook them. Everyone down here seem to sautee them and Yasatei, for all their very Japanese character, have opted for the Italian way: Akita Prefecture Asparaguses sauteed in olive oil and parmesan cheese!
Villa D’Est Quisine, on the other hand, seems to have opted for a median method of lightly frying Hokkaido asparaguses with olive oil and lean bacon.
In all cases those large green asparaguses combine a outside crunchy texture breaking easily under the teeth to reveal a tender juicy inside! Something difficult to obtain with overcooked lean samples!
420-0033 Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Ryogae-cho, 3-9, Hoshi Bldg. 1F
Business hours: 18:00~03:00 (until 05:00 on Fridays and Saturdays)
Closed on Mondays
Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Tokiwa-Cho, 1-6-2 Green Heights Wamon 1-C
Business haours: 17:30~22:00
Closed on Sundays
Reservations highly recommended
Villa d’Est Quisine
420-0839 Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Takajo, 3-10-1
Business Hours: 17:00~24:00
Closed on Thursdays
Shizuoka Foods Festival at Isetan
From August 5th to 10th (still two days left, hurry up!), Isetan Deaprtment Store in Shizuoka City has finally come up with a proper event for the Prefecture of Shizuoka!
The upper staff of the company having been “changed” due to the recent merger with Mitsukoshi Department Store, we may hope to see a marked improvement in their general sales and events policies.
Although the event in itself was only on the same scale of the usual Food Fairs celebrating products from Hokkaido, Okinawa and Kyushu, that is a bit small for my own satisfaction, it was still an effort worthy of attention.
Here is a quick overlook of some of the better stands:
Two friends of mine were serving some extravagant brews from Isojiman, Aoshima, Shidaizumi, Suginishiki and Hatsukame Sake Breweries.
The celebrated Abekawa (Shizuoka City) Mochi, a very traditional Japanese cake had a stand at the very entrance.
I discovered a really good soba and udon maker from Shibakawa Cho I intend to interview very soon!
Everybody knows the great melons of Fukuroi City!
Kawane is not only producing some of the best green tea in Japan, but have some interesting ways of turning it into food, such as “Kawane Ocha Man”!
On the other hand, few people know that Shizuoka Prefecture and City make some extravagant meat and delicatessen products!
But kamaboko/Fish Paste from Yui has reached the plates (and saucers) in far away corners of the nation.
Farmers in Iwata City and its surroundings have long grown some of the very best tomatoes in Japan!
Do I need to introduce wasabi from Shizuoka City (I’m sorry, but they are better than those mass-cultivated in Izu Peninsula!)!
Matsuzaki at the very tip of Izu Peninsula prides itself with its own extravagant shochu!
Sakura Ebi can be found only of Yui,
but I even discovered a very nice lady whose company makes sardine biscuits in nearby Kambara!
Naturally, I had to close the loop with my good friends at Oratche Brewery in Kannami who also produce some fine dairy products!
Isetan Department Store
420-0031 Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Gofuku Cho, 1-7
Business hours: 10:00~19:30
Edamame/Japanese Green Soybeans
I’ve always been somewhat puzzled to find the word “edamame” in my U.S. (and European) friends’ blogs. This conspicuous vegetable seems to conjure grand images of Japanese gastronomy in spite of its almost base status in this country.
After all, “edamame” (枝豆/branch bean in Japanese) is nothing but green soybeans, a food mass-produced and heavily exported by North American farmers.
Or, is it that the soybean’s image has fallen so low on the other side of the Pacific because some people grow it for bio-ethanol that restaurateurs feel more comfortable with a grand-sounding Japanese name?
Alright, before I get collared by Foodhoe or Gaijin Tonic for indulging into a cheap rant, let me introduce my own recipe for preparing the “delicacy”:
One does not have to boil it, cool it and serve it sprinkled with salt. This is probably the worst and least healthy way to consume it!
If you can, choose them fresh on the branch(es). This will guarantee they haven’t lost any of their nutrient qualities.
Cut out all the pods and throw away the branches (or re-process them inside your fertilizer box!).
Clean the pods under running water.
Drain water, but do not wipe them dry.
Drop them in an appropriate-sized non-stick pan and hand-rub them in a little coarse salt. The less salt, the better, but enough to season all pods. Experience and personal preferences will tell you how much you need.
Cover pan with a glass lid and switch on fire to medium-low. Cook until water seeps out of the pods. Switch off fire and keep inside covered pan (do not take the lid off!) for a good 5 minutes. By then, they should be sufficiently cooked.
In Japan there exists another variety called Kuro Edamame/黒枝豆-Black Edamame.
Actually they are a light brown-green soybean grown in Shizuoka Prefecture and elsewhere. They are definitely tastier and deserve the title of “delicacy”.
The beans out of their pods also make for great addition to salads, artful presentation with meat dishes, and are great mixed inside “nigiri”!
Noen No Megumi/Mikkabi Aoshima Mikan Orange Juice
Mikkabi area near Hamamatsu City in the estern partof Shizuoka Prefecture has been renown for its oranges, especially for a variety called “Mikkabi Aoshima Mikan”
It is always a special pleasure when you can discover them in the guise of 100% juice produced by local farmers!
Natural sweetness. Solid juice (100%). Great natural orange taste.
Both refreshing and satisfying!
Great for children and adults in summer.
Would especially recommend as dessert drink for children lunch boxes!
Noen No Megumi/Mikkabi Aoshima Mikan
Okamoto Mikan “Factory” ATA
hamamatsu City, kita Ku, Mikkabi cho, 276-1
SHIZUOKA CHEESE: ASAGIRI STRIPE CHEESE
“Stripe Cheese”, or “sakeru cheese” in Japanese, is a very popular snack in this country.
I have already described one made by Oratche in Kannami.
This one produced by Fuji Milk Land, Milk Land Co. Ltd. in Fujinomiya City on the slopes of Mount Fuji is slightly different.
I would definitely suggest friends to eat it along with a beer as it bites and chews well. The right amount (little in fact) of salt makes it safe to consume aplenty. And it’s fun to see how thin ou can stripe it down!
Fuji Milk Land
Milk Land Co. Ltd.
Fujinomiya City, Kami Ide 3690
WASABI: AN ENCOUNTER WITH A GREAT CHEF!
I have recently had the pleasure to make a new friend, namely Dominique Corby, a great French Chef who learned his craft at the Tour d’Argent in Paris, among others, before coming to Japan to look after the kitchen of the Sakura Restaurant in the New Otani Hotel in Osaka and of the 6eme Sens in Tokyo.
Dominique is a chef always looking for fresh seasonal natural ingredients for his cuisine which is resolutely a marriage of Japanese and French culinary traditions.
As he recently wrote a post on his blog on wasabi, I took the opportunity to send him a few samples of fresh wasabi grown in Shizuoka City, Utogi, Abe River for the simple pleasure of introducing him to one our great products in Shizuoka Prefecture.
They were almost one metre-high full with stems and leaves (all edible) and freshly uprooted in the very morning (I sent them by cool box just before lunch to reach him just in Osaka just before lunch the next day).
Dominique and his staff appreciated them to the point that a dish was created for the benefit of some customers on the very day.
See above picture. Dominique described it as follows:
-”sur une feuille et tiges de Wasabi, Sawara et Agi abute, kogomi,wasabina, nobiru, mousse de lait au wasabi fraîchement râpée, petite réduction de jus de homard”
-”on a wasabi leaf and stems, sawara and aji abute (grilled large mackerel variety and saurel), kogomi (young ferns), wasabina (a kind of Japanese lettuce), nobiru ( a kind of wild garlic), freshly grated wasabi milk mousse, reduced lobster juice.
A great compliment to a great product by a great chef!
ORATCHE: an ecological symbiosis
In 1997, when Mr. Shimono came all the way from Tokyo to Kannami, near Mishima City, he surely had a grand idea: not only he wanted to create his own bio dairy products and beer, but he also knew how to develop it to contribute to a better environment and cooperation with locals.
He certainly needed a lot of courage to achieve his goals: Kannami is far away from urban life regardless of the great numbers of Tokyoites-owned villas sprouting all over a nearby mountain. At the time he arrived there, the land was poor and grew little but oranges due to its exposure to cold winds in winter and searing heat in summer. Oratche’s beer was not called “Wind Valley Beer” because it sounded good, but because it was a fact of life!
I had already written a few articles about their surprisingly good cheeses when I met their young business department executive, Mr. Nishimura, by pure chance in Isetan Department Store in Shizuoka City. The gentleman most readily assented when I asked him if I may visit and investigate his company. He went as far as picking me up at the station, about ten minutes away from his establishment.
Oratche is a multiple-purpose company as they include a large shop, a dairy classroom for kids, an attraction park with rabbits, goats and ponies.
Local farmers have their own space where they can sell their own bio vegetables to visitors. Oratche had a good idea to recycle the refuse from the many cows they keep for milk and calves they raise for meat. They just give it to the local farmers who can use it as biological fertiliser!
They certainly never run out of it, I can tell you, as everything is well planned and quickly disposed of! They grow their own corn for feed combined with hay directly imported from the States. Knowing the Japanese Customs’ pickiness, I do not harbour any worry about its quality!
Now, their beer was a discovery!
I was lucky to come just after the new batch was finished. It was Sunday, and the beer brewery was on holiday, but they opened for my sole person and was offered a premium taste of three beers (see boards above. I had to decline the others, as I did not trust myself! Lucky I don’t drive!)
Great beer, seven of them, unfiltered and organic, with a very creamy foam. Wait until I report on the bottles I brought back home!
Before taking my leave, the company graciously offered me lunch at their restaurant where most ingedients are local. The enormous chicken side I chose is from Mishima, and the vegetables from local farmers. The carrots were so sweet!
Do look at their homepage, ven if it in Japanese (they are planning to start a blog soon), and you will see their wealth of products: milk, cream, butter, cheese,yoghurt, ice-creams, fruit juices, jams, cakes and beer!
I’m planning on more visits. If you are interested, do join me!
419-0105 Shizuoka Ken, Tagat Gun, Tanna, 349-1
Business hours: 10:00~18:00 (week days), 10:00~20:00 (Sat., Sun. and National Holidays)
Free car park.
Minami Hakone Gouda
This is the third cheese variety from Oratche Co in Tagata Gun (vegetarians and health-conscious friends like Lindsay at DeLuscious Life, rejoice again!) I have recently found. I will actually travel to Kannami on March 2nd to interview them as they also have a great beer brewery!
Extremely clean and tasty cheese with the right amount of salt. Reminiscent of a young Gouda from Holland. I really appreciated it with wine and beer.
As the other two cheeses I have already surveyed, thay are made with milk from cows raised in altitude near Mount Fuji, where they graze natural grass and are fed with real non-transgenic cereals.
Minami Hakone no Sakeru Cheese
Tagata Gun, Kannami Cho, Tanna, 349-1
Minami Hakone Sakeru Cheese
This is the second cheese from Oratche Co in Tagata Gun (I have a third one to introduce, so vegetarians and health-conscious friends like Lindsay at DeLuscious Life, rejoice!).
The name “Sakeru Cheeze” means “Cheese to be split”.
As its name indicates, it is easy to split, shred or cut in very thin strips, allowing it to be added to all kinds of salads, and even, Allison at Sushi Day will be happy to learn, added in nice combinations inside sushi rolls.
Very light texture. Pleasant to eat. In my case I eat it with a glass of sake or beer.
Minami Hakone no Sakeru Cheese
Tagata Gun, Kannami Cho, Tanna, 349-1
Shizuoka Cheeses: Minami Hakone Mozzarella
Shizuoka Prefecture does come with pleasing surprises, indeed!
Not only are we supplied uncountable kinds of marine and agricultural products, including even meat, some companies have for some time manufactured remarkable dairy products.
One of these, Oratche in Tagata Gun, has been noticed for creating cheese with local milk, including mozarella cheese.
This is definitely a bonafide for vegetarians and lovers of good food as they can trace it back to its very origin, instead of relying on importers’ information.
This particular mozzarella has the great merit to be firm, making it easy to cut, arrange and present. It is tastier than a lot of bland items I was brought to sample in this country, and so easy to adapt into salads, sandwiches and panini.
I definetely plan to fill zucchini/courgettes flowers with it in season before deep-frying, or steam them and serve them with cream-mushroom sauce! I’m pretty sure that Lindsay at DeLuscious Life is expecting the recipe!
Minami Hakone no Mozarella
Tagata Gun, Kannami Cho, Tanna, 349-1
Shizuoka Agricultural Products: Shizuoka Utsurogi Fair
On every first Wednesday of the month, a lsmall but very special fair is held in the basement of Isetan Store in Shizuoka City.
It is called “Shizuoka Utsurogi Ichiba” after a group of farmers residing and conducting business up Abe River in Shizuoka City, up to an altitude of 1,500 metres, around Utogi, the birthplace of wasabi, and still considered the best in the world.
Try to come as soon as Isetan opens as it can become quite a unashamed tussle with all these local grannies fighting for the best morsel!
All products on sale are purely local and practically devoid of industrial fertilizers. It is actually a paradise for vegetarians as only vegetables are represented there. A multitude of succulent and extravagant wasabi pickles, pickled plums, onions, etc.
The names, addresses and even phone numbers of the farmers are clearly stated, making all purchases eminently traceable.
But the pinnacle is some incredible fresh vegetables, including enormous fresh wasabi roots at ridiculously low prices. I grabbed a couple of fresh bouquets of wasabi stems, leaves and flowers for my better half (worse?) who loves them as tempura or home-made pickles! I wonder what people in Tokyo would have to pay for that!
If you read Japanese, do have a look at their HOMEPAGE
It is possible to travel up to Utogi and buy directly from the Farmers Cooperative at:
422–8031 Shizuoka City, Yumei Cho, 2-20
(75 minutes by bus, 55 minutes by car, or 2 hours by bicycle like I did last year!)
SUSHI FOR VEGETARIANS & VEGANS
Although I’m not a vegetarian nor a vegan, I do understand the needs of people with different regimen and always try to inform them about gastronomic options available in Japan and Shizuoka Prefecture.
Now, sushi for strict vegetarians or vegans exist as sown in those two pictures I took yesterday in a very small but famous Sushi Restaurant called Sushi Iroha in Iwata City, south of Toyoda JR Station.
The picture above features vegetables all grown in then neighbourhood Which were first cooked or/and marinated:
From left to right and top to bottom:
Konnyaku/Devil’s Tongue Yuber Paste (nigiri)
Celery marinated in Amazu/sweet vinegar and Umeboshi/salted Japanese plum (nigiri)
Shiro Negi/white leek (nigiri)
Na no hana/Rape Blossoms (nigiri)
Gobo/Burdock Roots (nigiri)
Satsuma Imo/Yams (gunkan)
Daikon/Japanese Long Radish (gunkan)
Next I was served a sublime creation concocted with Ebine Imo/Ebine Tuber served mille-feuilles style intersped with sushi rice and presnted with dashes of olive oil, seame oil/goma abura and soy sauce/shoyu.
Look forward to reading Part 2!
TYA-SOBA/Tea Buckwheat Noodles
Shizuoka Prefecture is celebrated for its green tea all the World.
Vegeterians (and vegans!), rejoice! A company called Ikejima Foods in Hamakita Ku, Hamamatsu City has come up with Tea Buckwheat Noodles/Tya-soba!.
Tea comes from the Kawane area which produces some of the best tea in the Prefecture.
The noodles contain no preservatives and neither the noodles, nor the tsuyu/soup contains any animal extracts whatsoever (no milk or egg products).
One pack contains enough for 4 small or 2 medium portions.
As for cooking, here are simple instructions:
Cold Noodles style:
Dilute tsuyu/soup in 100 ml of clean water.
In one big pan heat 2 litres of water. Bring to boiling point. Drop in noodles. Lower fire to samll. Stir with long chopsticks. The noodles are ready when they readily come to the surface. Wash them rapidly under running cold water inside a “zaru”/small basket or inside a bowl full of cold water until noodles are cool enough. Drain water and place on a flat dish over a bamboo net if possible. Eat noodles by dipping them in tsuyu/soup to which you can add freshly cut raw leeks and wasabi (or any spices you fancy!)
Hot noodles style:
Dilute tsuyu/soup into 230 ml of hot water.
Cook noodles as for cold style. Drain and drop into bowl full of tsuyu/soup. Add vegetables, freshly cut raw leeks and spices to taste.
Hamamatsu City, Hamakita Ku, Terajima, 2351
Good news for those people who like good, healthy and traceable foods!
The other found another interesting product in Kakegawa JR Station Local Products Market cakes made with tofu in Kikugawa City.
They come in five different flavours as for the jam included inside. I bought the blueberry, Japanese Plum and Strawberry ones.
I tasted (guzzled down) the strawberry one.
Very tasty, but not overwhelming sweet. Great with a cup of Shizuoka Green Tea!
Great cakes for health conscious mothers!
KIKUGAWA POEM SHINGATSU
Kikugawa City, Mineta, 1315-1
Tel. & Fax: 0537-733003
YUZU NANBAN/LIME CHILI PEPPER CONDIMENT
Many a foreigner in Japan has discovered “yuzu Koshyo”/lime salt condiment, which is also produced in Shizuoka Prefecture and other places.
But have you heard of Yuzu Naban? It is a particularly useful mixture of lime and ground chili pepper. It accompanies well almost any “ethnic cuisine” as well as nabe/Japanes pot-au feu.
The bonus is that it does include any additives, but only natural spices!
This particular one is locally produced in Iawata City, although nt always easy to find away from Westen Shizuoka.
Shizuoka Ken, Iwata Gun, Sakuma-cho, Sakuma, 1689
“Ichijiku Jyamu”/Fig Jam
In this world replete with additives, preservatives, artificial colouring and jellified matters, it has become a boon to discover or beiing offered real fruit jams as they should be!
My good friend, Patrick Harrington brought me this particular fig jam from Ito Ciy in the Izu Peninsula yesterday.
Izu Peninsula, an almost subtropical area at times is celebrated for its fruit and derived products in particular.
This fig jam contains locally-grown figs, sugar and citric acid, and that is it.
Sweet but not cloying at all mixed with some welcome acidity, it tastes like real fig with the right consistency and even a little cruchiness provide by the minuscule seeds.
Best appreciated on its own, especially on toasts, but would also make great toppings over fruit tarts and give this wild flavour to sauces for wild fowl, duck and venison!
“Ichijiku Jyamu”/Fig Jam
Poduced and sold by Aira Izu Agricultural Cooperative
Ito City, Usami, 1808-1
Shimizu ku has of recent years at the forehead of fruit development.
The latest is the largest citrus variety know in the world, which comes under the Japanes name of “晩白柚”/Banpeiyu.
Originally from Malay Peninsula, it has successfully grown in Shimizu Ku. It can reach a circumference of 65 cm and weigh as much as 3 kilogrammes!
Even so this year’s crop was comparetively small in size and volume. I wonder what would represent a good crop!
Natsu Mikan Sour/Summer Orange Sour Soft Drink
Here is a soft drink that should please both young and old without the usual fears associated with junk drinks.
30% of it is juice from mikan/sumeer oranges harvested in the Izu Peninsula. It contains loads of Vitamin C and carotenes.
They are sold in Shimoda City, but also can be bought at Sumpu Raku Ichi Store in Asty, Shizuoka JR Station.
A good drink for your trip!
Natsu Mikan Sour
Izu Taiyo Nogyo Kyodokumiai M (Izu Agricultural Cooperative)
Shimoda City, Higashi Hongo, 1-12-8
Producer Tel.: 0558-368316
Wasabi: Winter Harvest
Wasabi harvest has started in earnest in Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Utougi (along the Abe River), the birthplace of wasabi (c. 1600).
Growers have anounced that this year’s crop (it takes one to two years to nurture wasabi roots to maturity) is excellent witn a strong taste and aroma.
Not only the roots, but also the leaves and stems are edible (the latter are very popular as tenpura or pickled).
They will soon appear on the markets and Internet all over the country. A sizeable amount is also directly exported to South Kore and theU.S.
Umeshu by Hamamatsu Brewery
Shizuoka not only produces some of the best sake in Japan and absolutely extravagant shochu, but also come up with the cream of Umeshu found in this country adding local Japanese plums to their sake or shochu for the plesaure of all.
Hamamatsu-Tenjingura Brewery in Hamamatsu City has the particularity to brew sake, shochu, beer and umeshu (when are they going to make wine?).
This Umeshu called Kuramoto no Umeshu (Umeshu from our Brewery) is certainly a beauty:
Alcool: 15 degrees
Ingredients: Kome/rice shochu, Japanese plums extract, sugar.
No colouring or artificial state added.
Bottled in June 2007.
Best appreciated on the rocks or straight and chilled at all times.
Very elegant and satisfying. Will please both ladies and gentlemen.
The perfect aperitif!
Persimmon Vinegar: Denbei Kakisu
This particular (very few in Japan) Persimmon Vinegar was created by the man who revolutioned Shizuoka Sake for the last thirty years, Denbei Kawamura of Shizuoka City.
Volume: 500 cc
Jiro Persimmon extract (variety created in Shizuoka Prefecture in 1884, grown by Niko Niko Koen): 20%
Yeasts: Shizuoka HD-1 and vinegar yeast No 34
Citric acid: 4.0~4.5%
Bottled in June 2007 (original batch)
Its creator declared it is particularly beneficial against high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases. High in vitamin C, it also helps prevent skin trouble. Other vitamins include B1, B2, Carotene. Finally it is high in minerals.
It can be used for seasoning or drinking.
I particularly appreciated it mixed with Shizuoka mineral water. It gives a great original flavour to dressing and sauces. Highly recommended.
Sold in Raku Ichi Store, Asty, Shizuoka JR Station
RIVERSON KS Co. Ltd.
Shizuoka Ken, Fukuroi City, Matsubara 932
Tokai Seika Manjyu
These are other cake I recently discovered at Suruga Raku Ichi Store in Asty, Shizuoka JR Station (other article to appear soon). This time, it is a Shizuoka City Bakery, Tokai Seika who produced them:
“manjyu” in Japanese are cakes basically steamed rather than baked.
-The flat green one is “Tyatsuu”, made with tea.
-The green one is “Tororo Iri O Tya Manjyu”, made with tea and containing grated yam.
-The brown one is “Sumpu KO Manjyu” including sweetmeat (anko).
-The white one is “Sake Mushi Majyu”, majyu steamed in sake.
Don’t too many of them or you will need litres of tea to wash them down! LOL
Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Takajo Machi, 2-29
Toraya Belgian Tea Waffle
This is another tea cake I recently discovered at Suruga Raku Ichi Store in Asty, Shizuoka JR Station (other article to appear soon). This time, it is a Shizuoka City Bakery, Toraya who produced it:
It is called: “Belgie-Wafuru (Macha)”. You have probably guessed it is a Belgian-style waffle topped with macha powder tea.
I found it light and eminently edible. Just enough sweetness tanks to included honey.
I’m sure North Americans would enjoy it even with coffee!
Shizuoka City, Suruga Ku, Mabuchi, 2-7-3
Hamamatsu Bunmeidoo Tea Cakes
As everyone knows (do you?), Shizuoka Prefecture is the first producer of green tea in Japan. It is no surprise then to see different usages for tea. I recently discovered at Suruga Raku Ichi Store in Asty, Shizuoka JR Station (other article to appear soon) a couple of cakes made by Hamamatsu Bunmeidoo.
They appear as “castella”, one called “Chyattera” (Chya/tea + Castella), with half of it seasoned with tea, and the other one, “chya Mikan” (Tea + Orange), with some sweetmeat (anko type jam) and orange flavoured part in the middle.
Both cakes are very tasty, but not too sweet or cloy. Go very weel with a cup of hot green tea!
Hamamatsu City, Higashi Ku, Jian Machi, 1401
Shizuoka has claimed world fame for being the first to grow wasabi in the 17th Century (in yutogi, Shizuoka City exactly) and for producing more than 80% of the wole Japanese output, but people tend to forget that it can be put to many uses apart of using it for sashimi, sushi and the ubuquitous makisushi/rolled sushi!
One more great use has been initiated in Mishima City in eastern Shizuoka Prefecture: Wasabi Dressing!
It is not at all hot, but almost sweet and makes great accompaniment for any salads, on omelettes (Japanese or traditional) and mixed with sauces. I (and my better/worse) half ae still disovering more usages!
Definitely worth a try! Moreover it contains a crowd of healthy ingredients!
Mishima City, Heiseidai 5
Can be bought in Asty, Shizuoka JR Station
New Summer Orange Drink
A lot of fruit varieties are grown in Shizuoka Prefecture from to oranges to bananas and dragon fruit.
Some of them find their way into great refreshing drinks produced by completely local farmers association.
This particular one is called New Summer Orange Drink and has been put out by the Izu Taiyouu Nokyou in Kawazu, kamo Gun, Izu Peninsula.
It contains only 30% of pure orange juice, but is rich in vitamin C and carotin. Added ingredients include grapes juice and honey. It sweet, but only a little, tangy with a nice honey backdrop.
Definitely makes for a good drink for anyone, including sportsmen/women and children.
Can be bought In Asty, Shizuoka City JR Station.
For more information, call: 0558-368316
Cream Sauce Mushrooms
We are still in mushrooms season, wild ones or cultivated species. Mushrooms are low in calories, but high in quality, whether it concerns taste or nutrients.
Here is the recipe of a dish my father cooked for us last September back home in France. It can accompany any meat, especially white-flesh meat, or can be appreciated on its own as accompaniment with a sold white wine or heady Japanese sake.
Ingredients (3~4 people):
Mixed mushrooms of your choice, fresh or frozen (if frozen, let them thaw slowly inside refrigerator for a few hours and get rid of excess water): 500g
Shallots (echalottes): 2 finely chopped
Garlic: 2~3 cloves finely chopped (crucsh garlic before chopping it. Do not forget to discard core!)
Parsley or Italian flat parsley: half a cup finely chopped
Fresh cream: 200cc
Madeira wine: 50cc (yellow port is fine, too, as well as sweet sherry)
Olive oil and unsalted butter: about 2 large spoons of each
Salt, pepper, nutmeg (to taste)
On a medium fire in large frypan melt an equal quantity of olive oil and unsalted butter (some people prefer more, some less. Experiment!). Throw in the shallots and garlic and slowly fry until shallots turn transparent. Throw in all the mushrooms and fry untilthey give back enough water. Add Madeira wine. Stir well. Next add fresh cream and stir until cream is perfectly blended. Add salt, peeper and nutmeg last, stir. Check taste and add more spices if needed.
Pour the whole in a large dish and sprinkle parsley over the mushrooms before serving.
Bio Jam from Yui
As I visited Yui City (soon to become part of Shimizu Ku), a city famous for its “Sakura Ebi”, I discovered some interesting local agricultural products.
More and more famers/growers in this Prefecture choose not to use any additives, colorings, preservatives, sucrose or whatever finishing in “tin” or “peptin”.
One of them at Matsunaga Koen, Yaizu City, concocts great jams with local fruit and no artificial ferilizers or man-made additives as mentioned above.
I chose two particular ones among his array:
(as above) Lemon jam:
Name: Marugoto Marmelade Lemon
Ingredients: lemon, sugar
Bottled: August, 17th, 2007
Biwa (Loquat) jam:
Name: Tezukuri Jam Biwa
Ingredients: loquat, sugar, lemon
Bottled August, 10th, 2007
Matsunaga Koen (Matsunaga Kyoko)
Shizuoka Ken, Ihara Gun, Yui cho, Nishi Kurasawa, 98-1
The Nashi pear, Pyrus pyrifolia, is sometimes called the Asian pear . It has also been called Japanese pear or Taiwan Pear, as well as sand pear, apple pear, bapple, papple, and bae, from the Korean 배. In India is it called nashipati. Nashi pears are widely grown for their sweet fruit, a popular food in East Asia. They are sweet on the tree and are eaten crisp or else bletted.
Nashi pears generally are not baked in pies or made into jams because they have a high water content and a crisp, grainy texture, very different from the buttery European varieties. Also, Nashi pears are not as intensely sweet, having a more refreshing, light taste.
They are grown in various areas in Japan under different cultivar and brand names.
I have the luck to be offered every summer a full box of them coming from Yaizu City where their brand name is “Shinsui”/新水. They are the perfect fruit for a hot summer and have far more value than a whole bottle of soda!
Blueberries are already being harvested in Sena farms, Aoi Ku, Shizuoka City!
For example, Mr. Tsutomu Fujimaki (57) who has been growing the fruit for the last 7 years has started picking 20 varieties of blueberries from no less than 600 plantings.
The ripe fruit reach as much as 1cm diameter.
Apart of the best items found fresh on your tables, a lot will go to make succulent jams.
Some gourmets even preserve in shochu or sake!
Some fine samples can be bought at the Shizuoka JA direct agricultural products sale shop in Shizuoka City.
The Loquat season has reached us in Shizuoka Prefecture at last!
Called “Biwa” in Japanese, it is considered as a fairly expensive delicacy as the beginning. Fruit sold at stores are carefully chosen. The bigger, the better it seems.
The most noted growers are located in Okitsu where 20 of them have formed the Okitsu Biwa Association. They particularly sweet and juicy.
Whenever I can, I pick the small ones you can find almost everywhere and either make sorbet of “biwa shu” (preserved in Shochu and sugar).
“Yomogi”, also called “Mochigusa” (mochi grass) has been picked, used and grown for ages in most of this country, first as a medicinal herb and second for food.
Its latin name is “Artemisia princeps”. It mainly grows in mountains on sun-exposed slopes. Not to be confused with “niga-yomogi”, the Japanese name for thujone, e.g. absinthe!
It blooms in June~July. Farmers have long used its roots as medicine, after pressing water out and drying them.
The leaves are considered to help against lack of appetite, thin blood, stomach colds, diarrhea, nose bleed, constipation and gout. They are aslo extensively used in baths.
As for medicine make Yomogi sake: Leave 300g. of leaves in 1.8 l. of sake for half a year. Drink a 20ml, 3 times a day.
Leaves can be applied on insect-bitten skin.
There are many ways to enjoy them as food as well as medicine:
In Shizuoka, you will find many farmers selling a similar sweet in the shape of a hot cake with sweetmeats (anko) inside.
I know that the strawberry season (that is for the Winter variety) has truly started when a neighbouring farmer lady opens her stand across the street from my home in Chiyoda, Aoi Ku in Shizuoka City!
The fruit she puts on sale come into two different sizes at ridiculously low prices. The strawberries pictured on the very large plate (each strawberry is the size of a large soup spoon!) above cost a mere 500 yen!
She does not grow her strawberries in the area but in some of those large “vinyl houses” found along the sea. She happens to own some land near my home where she grows all kinds of vegetables (she sells them, too).
She told me not to bother go all the way to the sea as they were more expensive there!
But if you have the occasion to drive, walk, cycle or run nearby, check at:
Sakuza Noen, Shizuoka City, Suruga Ku, Furushuku, 84 Bancho
Ask for Mr. Isamu Nishisawa
Season: from mid-March to mid-May
Did you know that wasabi originated from Shizuoka City?
Around 1600, farmers in Utougi District, some 33 km from Shizuoka JR STation along the Abe River, first started experimenting with the culture of that particular plant, which they already knew as a vegetable used for pickling. At the time they were only processing the stems, leaves and flowers.
This is still a very popular kind of pickles in Shizuoka where they are sold in season.
In 1604, Tokugawa Ieyasu, who had just moved to Sumpu (presently Shizuoka City), grew extremely fond of the grated root and helped spread its use all over the country. Its present culture has expanded outside our Prefecture, especially in Nagano, but Shizuoka still produces the best In Utougi and in the Amagi Range in Izu Peninsula.
The above-ground part of the plant is also used for making delicious “wasabi zuke” with “sake kasu” (Sake white lees). You can imagine why Shizuoka products are of so high quality when you realize what “sake kasu” is being used!
In my own biased opinion, the best “wasabi zuke” is made by Tamaruya Company in Shizuoka City.
Above picture was taken in Haneda Airport where the Company has its own stand!
Now, if you want to buy and serve your own “wasabi”, which I would recommend to any real Japanese cuisine amateur, you will need a wasabi grater.
If you want to visit Utouki, where you will find a soba restaurant and other shops as well as the possibility of trekking and festivals watching in April and October, either go by car (55 minutes) or take a bus (bus platform 7 at Shizuoka JR Station/75 minutes). The trip along along the Abe River is worth it with all the changing landscapes!
Now, you might know it, but thinly sliced wasabi root is not as strong as grated wasabi. In Shizuoka, as it is not that expensive, try and ask your favourite sushi chef to cut it in very thin strips and roll as it is in a “maki”. It’s called “bakudan maki” (the real one, not the buster made with grated wasabi!). A favourite of mine!
Shimizu goes bananas!
Article appeared in Shizuoka Shimbun on March 16th
First harvest of bananas grown in Shimizu City.
Mr. masao Yonezawa of Okitsu Higashi Machi, Shimisu Ku, Shizuoka City, has succeeded for the first time in our Prefecture in grrowing and harvesting the fruits of f the 3 “banana trees” ( a grass actually!) inside his green house (“vinyl house in Japlish). He first attempted the culure of bananas in November 2005. His crop was a total failure last year when the flowers refused to germinate. A JA member, he will exhibit the bananas at A Coop Freppie in Okitsu and hopes to start marketing them from next year.