Toukun/桃薫 Peach Strawberry!
Shizuoka Prefecture is celebrated all over the country for its superlative strawberries.
But the competition is fierce.
The only way to stay ahead of other producers is to come up with new products of quality.
Two years ago a group of six benihoppe/red cheeks (first grown in Shizuoka Prefecture in 2002) strawberry farmers in Yaizu City put their heads together and investigated for new possibilities.
They called themselves the “Six Berry Farmers” (in English) under the leadership of Mr. Hajime Matsuda/松田肇 (3rd gentleman from the left on the above photograph).
The Japanese Government, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestries in particular, actively sponsors research for new products.
Our merry band of Berry Farmers checked with the Kyushu-Okinawa Agricultural Research Center/九州沖縄農業研究センター in Fukuoka City, Kyushu Island, and found two interesting varieties for a new venture.
Incidentally, such research centers only do research and announce their results. It is up to farmers to check with them for new possibilities!
These two varieties were particularly interesting as they were not only extremley resistant to diseases, but also easy to preserve for a long time after harvest!
The Six Berry Farmers raise their own bees for pollination!
Ookimi Strawberries plants.
The first they chose was “Ookimi/おおきみ/Large Fruit Strawberry”,a very sturdy, bright red strawberry with a green bottom and a good balance between sweetness and acidity.
Ookimi Strawberries ready for harvest.
For a closer view! Beautiful and deep red color!
Toukun Strawberries ready for harvest.
Ookimi is a great strawberry and it has the merit to be rare in Japan as it is only grown in Saga (kyushu) and Shizuoka Prefectures.
But our merry band wanted to try something even more unusual.
The Toukun Strawbeery!
They decided then to grow the “Toukun/桃薫/Peach Fragrance”, a hybrid Benihoppe originating from a cross with a Chinese Strawberry variety.
Now, talking of rarity, you cannot do better: there are only 3,000 plants (kabu/株 in Japanese) shared in 6 locations!
Well, that is for the moment!
Things will change rapidly when gastronomes discover this beautiful strawberry of a pink-orange color with a strong peach aroma, a white and juicy inside, and a strawberry tasting like a real peach!
The Six Berry Farmers have designed their own style of elevated cultivation away from the soil and at a practical height for picking with pipes regularly providing water to the strawberry soil. Artificial fertilizers are kept to a minimum and pesticides have been greatly reduced with the introduction of pests-eating insects.
The soil under the strawberries is covered with sturdy vinyl sheets to help farmers move easily between rows and to keep any undesired elements away!
Very healthy plants!
Tokun samples ready to be transported away!
the three strawberries in the middle row at the right are Toukun, all the others are Ookimi!
At “Nori” Italian Restaurant in Fujieda City.
The first step is creating a new variety.
The second step is to grow that variety.
The third step is to market that variety!
That is when the farmers need outside help. So Mr. Katsuyuki Ishimori/石森克往 of Agrigraph and I (I also work for Agrigraph) took Mr. Matsuda litterally by the hand to introduce him, his colleagues, and their strawberries to a select few gastronomes of our choice: Nori Italian Restaurant in Fujieda City, Pissenlit French Restaurant in Shizuoka City, and Wine Bar whose owner is also a Fruit Sommelier (article coming soon!) also in Shizuoka City.
Moreover, we had Mr. Matsuda send samples to the best Patissier in Shizuoka Prefecture, Patisserie Abondance in Hamamatsu City.
These lucky few will be proud to say later that they were the first to serve them before they were even put on sale.
This is only a first article as I intend to interview all six farmers individually and the reactions from our gastronomes!
SIX BERRY FARMERS
421-0213 Shizuoka Ken, Yaizu Shi, Habuchi, 774