Ice Plants & Tomatoes in Yaizu City: Ooba Garden
Mr. Hiroyuki Ooba/大場弘之, growing ice plants and tomatoes at Ooba Garden/おおば農園 in Yaizu City/焼津市
“Looking forward to diversify!”
Meeting 100 students in my classes at University does prove useful when I wish to discover new producers and farmers as in Shizuoka Prefecture some of these very students are bound to be the sons and daughters of local farmers!
One such student was kind enough to introduce to her father, Mr. Hiroyuki Ooba (51) growing ice plants and tomatoes in his farm!
He kindly accepted to pick me up at Fuijeda City JR Station last Sunday on a beautiful day.
Yaizu City and its surroundings being a very flat area we can admire Mount Fuji in the distance all day long!
Mr. Ooba is second generation farmer.
His father was mainly cultivating tomatoes and cucumbers before he took over.
He has since stopped growing cucumbers to concentrate on other green vegetables, always experimenting on new varieties and species.
Mr. Ooba apologized for the “messy” farm, but actually I found it very welcoming with those old pine trees at the entrance!
Well, this certainly looks like a real farm!
Many bicycles! Mr. Ooba has two daughters, the second one being my student and a son, the youngest of his children still at high school, but who already has decided to attend Agricultural university to follow in his father’s steps!
Mr. Ooba grows ice plants in greenhouses covering 6a and 5a, whereas tomatoes are grown in 3 greenhouses for a total area of 12a.
Mr. Ooba started growing ice plants/アイスプラント a couple of years ago, thinking that these African vegetables should be easy to grow in a hot environment. He was surprised to find out that they didn’t like heat much after all!
Enormous ice plants!
The Japanese eat only the top part of the ice plant raw which is crispy and are not interested in the larger leaves as they don’t cook them. on the other hand the plant grows quickly and can be continuously harvested for its top crispy young leaves.
Mr. Ooba allots some space for his own needs: Qing geng cai/チンゲンサイ and thin leeks/細葱.
He also grows and partly sells cabbages as the land is propitious to vegetables whereas trees such as orange trees are not really suited.
Incidentally a great part of Yaizu City farmland is dedicated to rice, which is of very good quality.
Mr. Ooba and his father have been growing tomatoes for about 40 years.
They used to grow Momotaro tomatoes, but Hiroyuki thought he was getting better results with Misora 64 tomatoes.
he grows between August and December and again between January and May. Between May and August he will grow some Momotaro tomatoes.
The cultivation system is nutriculture/養液栽培, a system that he found most practical over the years allowing for a better control and reduction of pesticides and artificial fertilizers.
For all the practicality of this system, cultivation is not that easy.
Plants have to be regularly trimmed and prunes.
One big tomato might look good (above picture) but all tomatoes after that big beauty will not develop properly.
You have to choose two sizes and the consequent technique according to consumer and market demands.
Either you grow them big and few as above or,
or clusters of smaller but more regular and abundant tomatoes!
I personally tend to like them in-between but I’m being selfish.
In any case we already agreed on a second interview next may when i will be able to find great quantities to choose from!
Messrs. Hiroyuki Ooba/大場弘之 and Hajime Matsuda/松田肇 of Six berry Farmers!
I found out that Mr. Ooba is actually a friend of Hajime Matsuda, one of the six merry Berry Farmers growing Toukun/桃薫, peach strawberries!
Funnily enough it was discovery for Hiroyuki!
The three of us shared a long constructive talk about future ventures.
Hiroyuki is seriously thinking of starting grapes and fancy pumpkins next year. great fun in store for me!
Although Mr. Ooba’s vegetables are sold in Yaizu City markets, direct orders are gladly accepted through the phoneor by mail!
Ooba Garden, Mr. Hiroyuki Ooba
421-0212, Shizuoka ken, Yaizu Shi, Riemon, 250-2
Mobile E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Producing Shizuoka Tea Bags on Order: Saikou Chaen Co. ltd.
Asami Itoh/伊藤麻美 at Saikou Chaen Co. Ltd./彩香茶園有限会社
“Always trying to expand business onto new avenues”
Tea bags have been an established business for long in Europe and in the Americas, but Japan is only coming very slowly to accept the idea for its green tea.
This is a business opportunity with great potential but also fraught with risks as the Japanese do not easily forget their traditions even they are obviously narrow-minded.
Asami Itoh is a young entrepreneur who only recently joined her father’s long-established tea factory business to find new ways to expand the family business.
The compulsory “cleaning room” all visitors and staff have to go through.
She spent 5 years in Tokyo and Shizuoka studying and working in architecture and interior design. This experience proved useful when designing her own annex in her father’s company, Marufuku Tea Factory/丸福製茶.
It had to be conceived small, compact and in an absolutely clean environment.
Any visitor or staff must first go through the “cleaning room” where powerful air jets will take care of any dust or particles you might carry on your clothes.
A staff of 5 is looking after all operations including the transformation of tea into powder/funmatsu/粉末 (I was not allowed to take pictures of that particular process as they use a machine of their own concept), tea grading, blending and packaging.
Space had to be planned for the inclusion of 2 tea bags machines and more equipment for packaging.
Temperature and humidity have to be controlled very tightly, especially during the rainy season and in Autumn.
Static electricity is the biggest problem.
The place must be cleaned every morning mainly with vacuum apparels and everything has to go through one more and complete cleaning session every week.
Tea bags as they come out of the machine.
Green tea being blended with genmai/whole rice/玄米.
Tea sometimes does have to be treated the traditional way!
The final product as a package of tea bags!
All tea bags are made on order to avoid any waste and to provide best quality.
The competition is fierce and copying is inevitable, but the key of a successful business is quality and service.
As for the future Asami knows she still has plenty to learn including the English language for business expansion and the manufacture of Chinese Oolong tea for a new type of tea bags.
Do visit her official homepage/CHA-O and you will realize how much work is put into her venture! Great explanations and pictures to be discovered!
Saikou Chaen Co. Ltd./彩香茶園有限会社
420-0006 Shizuoka Shi, Aoi Ku, Wakamatsu Cho, 94
Free dial: 0120364188
Business hours: 09:00~17:00
Closed on Sundays and 2nd + 4th Saturdays
Peach Strawberry: A First in the World! Toukun/桃薫
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 Forestry 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 extremely 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 Strawberry!
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 literally 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
Miso Paste: Made Onsite at Miwa Agriroad
Mrs. Yukiko Mochizuki/望月幸子 and Mrs. Kayoko Mochizuki/望月加代子
“We make miso onsite for better quality, safety and traceability!”
Wednesday is on of the days I usually reserve for on-field interviews. On Wednesday mornings, whenever I have the chance, I try to meet my old friend, Mrs. Natsuko Koyanagi/小柳奈津子 in Agriroad Miwa, in Miwa, Aoi Ku, Shizuoka City.
As mentioned before, Agriroad Miwa is a market run in collaboration by the JA and local ladies to sell all kinds of vegetables, bentoes and processed foods prepared by more than 100 lady members.
There are quite a few of these locally-run markets in town and prefecture, and they are the best bet for freshest and best quality without mentioning the very low prices!
I had noticed for quite a while these big boxes of miso paste on sale at this market. At 650 yen for a kg, this is quite good value.
When I questioned Natsuko about it, she explained that it was made in turns by lady members inside the Agriroad Market kitchen between December and March!
Natsuko hiding behind her mask (she had just caught a cold! LOL)
Good miso should not be complicated to make.
The good thing about this particular miso is that it is not only fresh and free of all preservatives and whatnot found in mass-produced miso pastes, it is also safe, stable and traceable!
The big vat in which the soy beans are boiled.
What do you need, then?
Quantities will be also according to the size of your kitchen snd utensils, but the bigger, the better!
-Soy beans: 30 kg
-Rice: 30 kg
-Salt: coarse salt/arashio/荒塩. Natsuko actually uses rock salt form Nepal!: 12 kg
-Yeast/koujikin/麹菌: one standard pack (can be bought in specialized shops all over Japan)
-Water, water, and more water (lol)
The ladies of the day were kind enough to explain the process with plenty of smiles!
The soybeans are first soaked for a whole night and then boiled until soft. Keep some of the soybeans water when you want to adjust the miso paste humidity later instead of plain water!
Agriroad uses soybeans grown in Hokkaido.
At the same time wash, rince and steam the rice. Old rice, that is from the previous year’s harvest, is best.
Agriroad uses exclusively local rice and salt made in Japan.
Let the rice cool down just a little. Sprinkle the yeast all over it evenly and let ferment for one day and a half (break it and mix it a few times).
Mash the soybeans.
Pour the mashed soybeans, fermented rice, salt, and whenever wanted (use your eyes and tastebuds) the “juices”/soybean boil water (cold) and mix well.
And that’s it!
Pour the miso into jars or other vessels, close tightly.
Some people use it as it is, but is best matured for 6 months at room temperature in winter or in the fridge in summer.
This the basic and delicious recipe.
Natsuko mixes her own with yuzu/lime/柚子!
〒421-2114 Shizuoka Shi, Aoi Ku, Abeguchishinden, 537-1.
〒421-2114 静岡市葵区安部口新田, 537-1.
Business hours: 09:30~15:30 (from 08:30 on Saturday, Sunday and Holidays)
The Yamaguchis’ Benihoppe Strawberry Fields (beginning of December)
Mrs. Tamako Yamaguchi/山口玉子 and her daughter Haruka/晴香
Last Monday, December 6th, I traveled to the Izu Peninsula for the second time in eight days.
The occasion was my third visit to Yamaguchi Benihoppe Strawberry Farm.
Their daughter, Haruka (she is also a student of mine at University!), was on hand to pick me up at Mishima JR Station and drive me all the way to Nirayama/韮山 in Izu No Kuni City/伊豆の国市.
It was another gorgeous day of that unending Autumn and Mount Fuji kept an eye on us all the time!
Her father, Mitsuo/光雄, being away to a meeting ,Haruka had arranged the interview with her mother who knows as much as her husband.
When we arrived at her home (above picture) her mother, Tamako/玉子, was still busy in one of their greenhouses, so we took a leisurely tour of their home and the neighborhood.
The strawberry packages storeroom.
Plenty of work every morning!
The strawberries are usually picked early every morning, sorted, packed and stored into a large refrigerator before being sent and delivered the next morning.
Near their home I noticed the sign of an abandonned yakiniku restaurant. The name of the sake advertized, Kikugenji/菊源氏 was from a brewery in Izu Peninsula which has been absorbed by Bandai Brewery/万代酒造 quite some time ago. It must have been abandonned a long time ago!
Just next to their home again is the entrance to a shinto shrine called Wakamiya Jinja/若宮神社.
If you look carefully around you will found many of them tucked away in the Japanese countryside!
This one is not that old by Japanese standards (1926), but it did look venerable!
Her mother finally joined us and we all went to one of their many greenhouses.
You will find a box in front of every greenhouse. They are beehives. Mr. Yamaguchi does not bother about frills and makes his boxes practical. The bees don’t seem to mind! The latter are very peaceful, used as they are to humans.
Usually other growers will borrow such boxes for a fee.
Strawberry culture might be possible without the bees, but you will never obtain large fruit of a regular shape!
Those “bee boxes” don’t look much from the outside, but they are so valuable that they have to secured againt theft (unfortunately it regularly happens!)!
A very small exit from the beehive and a slightly larger entrance into the greenhouse.
Inside the greenhouse. A lot of green foliage, but don’t worry, plenty of strawberries can be found under it!
On the average each plant produces 20 crops!
Each grower has his/her own techniques.
The Yamaguchis keep the inner temperature at nearly 30 degrees Celsius with this apparatus.
This apparatus will distribute carbon dioxide gas to help fruition.
It is carefully used and as little as possible. The Yamaguchis understand they cannot avoid using it but they do so sparsely and with utmost care.
As a rule, the Yamaguchis do not use pesticides from the very moment the plants are transfered to soil. They fight pests in may ways: these sticky yellow cards will catch a lot of insects, especially flies. The bees practically never get caught as they are placed well above the plants. They also use natural enemies such as ladybugs.
These traps are usually devised for mice, but placed atop the beehives, they will catch nastier enemies!
Giant carnivorous wasps/suzumebachi/雀蜂 and what else!
At night they have to surround the greenhouses with electric wires to fend off hakubishin/白鼻芯/civets! Those pests (they can eat a whole crop in a single night!) found their way into Japan through our very Prefecture in 1945 when pets from China were abandoned into the wild!
The space between the rows is filled with rice husks to absorb excess humidity and allow for easier harvesting.
A bee pollinating a flower.
They produce top-class honey!
A view of the strawberries in the afternoon which had been harvesting the morning.
Because of the very large demand for Christmas cakes, the small round strawberries are the most expensive in this season.
After Chritmas, the plants will be regularly prub\ned to allow only for large strawberries.
But I was offered no less than 4 boxes of these great large specimens!
They are always packed with their sepals, otherwise they would lose half of their Vitamin C and nutrients within half an hour.
Strawberries without their sepals in cakes are not that good for the body, whereas half a dozen medium ones (with their sepals) pack enough Vitamin C for a whole day!
Yamaguchi Benihoppe Strawberry Farm
410-2114, Izu no Kuni, Nan-jo, 8
Healthy Oranges in a Healthy Environment: Shiratori Orchard in Izu Peninsula
Healthy Oranges in a Healthy Environment!
Last Monday I somehow managed to get a full day free (and I certainly needed the whole of it!). My good friend Yasushi Imaizumi/今泉康 drove me on a grand tour of the Eastern part of Shizuoka Prefecture.
Our destination was a remote place deep south the eastern coast of Izu Peninsula.
The day was just gorgeous!
Absolutely blue skies and mild temperatures.
We just couldn’t help taking pictures of snow-capped Mount Fuji on the way!
It took us (Yasushi) three hours to drive down to Shirata/白田, near the minuscule fishing harbor of Inatori/稲取, in Kamo Gun/賀茂郡, only a short distance from Shimoda City/下田市.
There, we discovered the oranges orchard of the Shiratori Family with an incredible view over the ocean. By clear weather you can see as far as Oshima/大島 Island!
Miyoko Shiratori/白鳥美代子, a live-in student, her daughter-in-law, Hiroko/弘子, her son, Takehisa/岳寿 and her husband, Ryuusaku/龍作.
Mr. Ryuusaku Shiratori/白鳥龍作 (82), was a seventh generation of growers of rice, tea, oranges and wasabi back in Shizuoka City until he decided to move there 40 years ago to become the first of three generations of orange growers.
This must have been the right choice as he and his wife Miyoko/美代子 could pose in any magazines as models of incredibly healthy longevity!
Having bought those 2 ha of steep terrain, he had it buldozzed into shelves within three days!
I can tell you that you need good feet and good eyes to move through the orchard!
He has never looked back since then!
He is presently helped by his son Takehisa/岳寿 (54), his daughter-in-law, Hiroko/弘子 (49) and his grandson Tatsumi/達巳 (26). They also get the very much needed hands of a live-in student from Shizuoka City.
Ryuusaku Shiratori demonstrating cuttings to my friend Yasushi.
They do grow many varieties of oranges and one of them, a hybrid developed by Ryuusaku, Shiratori Hyuuga/白鳥日向 (developed from Hyuuga Natsu/日向夏 from Miyazaki Prefecture in Kyushu Island) has been registered with the Japanese Agriculture & Forestry Ministry!
Actually, he is quite well-known as no later than a week before a whole Tokyo HHK TV crew of 10 staff and 2 cameras spent a whole day there!
These Hyuuga Shiratori oranges are carefully pruned away to leave only the best fruit which are wrapped in paper for better fruition!
Another view of the trees!
The wrapping takes days and days!
40-years old trees! They can be harvested until the grand age of 60 years!
Trees are propagated with cuttings planted directly into the soil.
These new trees will be completely pruned for 4~5 years before harvesting the first oranges.
100% organic culture is impossible, but the Shiratoris reckon that their orchard is more than 90% organic. The second and third generations have actually been awarded the title of Ecofarmers by the Government!
Fertilizer is practically organic. You understand it when you see the beautiful grass growing between the trees.
As for pests, they use the very minimum of pesticides and introduce natural enemies of such pests such as ladybugs and other carnivorous insects!
Pollination is done either by hand, with the help of the wind, or with rented bees!
Their Shiratori Hyuuga oranges, although seedless and full of juice, will take two more months to mature to a tasty and sweet juice.
New Summer Oranges (will be mature in May!)
As I said, they grow many varieties to organize a constant harvest and delivery.
Among them Haruka/晴香, Ponkan/ポンカン, and New Summer Oranges are extremely popular.
Ponkan ready for harvest and delivery!
They do grow and experiment with other fruit such as loquats/biwa/琵琶!
Although great exposure to the sun and big differences of temperature between day and night are welcome, the wind isn’t!
To fend off the wind, Ryuusaku planted hedges of camelias/tusbaki/椿.
He likes them so much that he made a point to plant as many varieties as possible. He invited me to admire them next February!
They do also grow a lot of their own food, such as these shiitake mushrooms and string beans I was offered to take back home with a whole bunch of ponkan!
Since I have to make at least two more trips expect more pics and explanations!
413-0304 Shizuoka Ken, Kamo Gun, Higashi izu Cho, Shirata, 1742
Mobile phone: 090-7025-6659
Check their HOMEPAGE for orange varieties, prices and orders!
Shizuoka Agricultural Products: Horiuchi Vegetables Garden
“We grow vegetables 364 days a year, and sometimes 365 days!”, replied Mrs. Satoko Horiuchi/堀内里子 when asked how busy she and her husband were.
Her family has been growing tea and rice for 6 or 7 generations (“I don’t remember!” confided the sweet old lady with a laugh).
The Horiuchi family was introduced to me by my good friend Natsuko Koyanagi from Agriroad in Miwa/美和 in Aoi Ku/葵区 in Shizuoka City.
“Whenever we are short of vegetables at Agriroad Market, we just give her a call and she will fill the place again!” Natsuko explained.
Komatsuna/小松菜 or Japanese Mustard Spinach.
The Horiuchi family cultivates vegetables over an area of 25 acres.
Satoko and her husband do most of the work with occasional from their daughter.
As far as fertilizer is concerned they use a combination of organic manure fertilizer and artificial fertilizer.
Can you guess what these are?
Exploring their garden is like a lesson!
These rea kabocha/南瓜 flowers!
The kabocha itself. Still too young and soft yet!
Edamame/枝豆! They are actually soy beans/daizu/大豆 harvested still green like you would do with strinng beans.
The Japanese like them small, although I like biting through their seeds after having steamed and marinated them!
Satsuma Imo/Sweet potatoes/薩摩芋.
The Horiuchis use as little pesticide as possible although it is a daily fight with their daughter who wishes to grow more organic vegetables to satisfy the new demands!
Broccoli in fornt and myoga/myoga ginger/茗荷 at the back.
Japanese lettuce variety.
The Horiuchis on the average will grow at least two if not three of vegetable varieties on the same plot of land depending on the season.
This particular greenhouse is their daughter’s organic domain!
Beautiful and healthy!
The “heart” of the garden!
All these are the Horiuchis’ property, not counting the oranges and tea fields in nearby mountains!
There is a constant demand for peppers or piman/ピーマン in Japanese!
Daikon still at an early stage.
Don’t forget that the leaves are also edible. They make for great pickles!
And the leeks/negi/葱 naturally!
I’m convinced that the Japanese must be some of the highest consumers in the world!
You will understand why i will have to visit their garden in the near future!
Incidentally they also take direct orders apart of os selling their vegetables in many markets. Give them a call to find out what is available!
Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Nakanogo, 32
Shizuoka Agricultural Products: Naitoh Fig Orchard in Okitsu
“With the present changes in climate my neighbors are joking that we might have to think of growing pineapples soon!” Mr. Yoshihiko Naitoh told me while driving me from Okitsu Station to his orchard up in the mountains.
I had called him te day before after my good friend Yasushi Imaizumi, a gastronome and real connoisseur, has introduced me to this great farmer.
He had gracefully agreed to pick me up as his farm is noteasy to find, but had warned me he had some work on the way.
Which suited me fine as it gave me the occasion to visit Okitsu JA Farmers Market where he delivered some of the morning’s crop.
Mr. Naitoh is a fourth generation farmer as far as tea and mikan/madarine oranges are concerned, but as for figs he is a first generation farmer and has grown them for 22 years.
The first that struck me in his orchard is that he uses almost no insectisides or herbicides as proved by the grasses grwoing freely between the rows of fig trees.
As for fertilizer he mainly uses pig’s manure from a neighboring farmer that he mixes with only a minimum of artificial fertilizer, mainly calcium and potassium.
This particular fig, in spite of its green/-yellow skin is ripe!
It is a “banane fig/バナネ無花果”, a french variety. Beautiful and succulent!
Mr. naitoh grows three types of figs which don’t need any help for pollination: Banane Fig/バナネ無花果, Common Fig/普通無花果, and
and Violet Figs/ヴィオレ無花果, another French variety which turns to a striking black/purple color when ripe!
One cannot replant a fig tree in the same spot from where another fig tree has been rooted out. Mr. Naitoh therefore keeps experimenting even using discarded polysterene boxes!
Mr. Naitoh also grows fig trees in pots to sell to homes and gardeners!
I wouldn’t mind one of rhose on my balcony!
For a closer look!
Taking care of a fig tree is not so difficult. Don’t forget to cut the fruit-bearing branches at their base in winter. Don’t worry they will grow fast again and produce two crops in July and Ocotober in warm conditions!
As Mr. Naitoh uses no insectisides, in the afternoon he turns hunter and kill the little pests by hand!
Mr. Naitoh is not only a grower but a fine chef!
I bought this succulent-looking fig compote!
I also got his fig jam!
These figs will be delivered as far as Chiba Prefecture on the other side of Tokyo!
Apart of ornages and tea on pieces of land dispersed in the mountains, Mr. Naitoh also cultivates Roselle/ロセル, a variety of hibiscus.
Now, why is he growing flowers in the middle of his orchards?
The flowers are picked before they open at all.
The core will be discarded and only the red sepal will be kept to be turned into jam!
I got a full bag of them and made my own jam, reminscent of acid pomegranates. Absolutely beautiful (in taste as well as in looks!)!
Mr. Naitoh accepts private orders of his three types of figs, fig compaote, fig jam, roselle, so do not hesitate to call him!
The Yamaguchis’ Benihoppe Strawberry Fields (beginning of October)
Haruka/晴香, Tamako/玉子 and Mitsuo/光雄 Yamaguchi/山口
This the second part as promised of my interview of the Yamaguchi Family, a major grower of traberries, Exclusively of he Benihoppe variety, in Nirayama, Izu Peninsula. Read the first part for better understanding!
As mentioned before, “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!
To cut a long story short I was back at Mishima JR Station yesterday where Haruka Yamaguchi picked me up to give me a lift to her parents straberry fields.
The Yamaguchis own a total of 15 greenhouses for a total of 1,500 tsubo (4,500 square meters), A fairly large property for a single family in this particular area counting for no less than 187 registered farms!
When you realize that their greenhouses stand in many different locations you can understand the sheer work of only opening and closing the roofs depending upon the weather, humidity and temperature every day! No need to say that when torrential rains fall upon them it becomes a real scramble!
The new strawberry seedlings were finally planted on the 15th of September. A couple of seedlings had been cut out and analyzed to ascertain that the flowers buds were forming.
Now, what is that box for?
A beehive will stand on it 5 days before the first strawberry flowers start blooming.
One just can’t pollinate the flowers without them!
Articial pollination would be too cumbersome and will not be uniform with the consequence of misshaped fruits.
The Yamaguchis breed their own bees in 16 beehive, one for each greenhouse.
Don’t worry, they eat and share the honey!
Fruit size will depend on well the flowers are pollinated.
Only the strict minimum of fertilizer will be dispensed until the soil is covered with plastic vinyl.
Weeds will have to be picked out by hand until then.
No pesticides will be used either.
Insects-eating insects will then be introduced!
The Yamaguchis will use large vynil sheets to close the soil between the seedlings and rows. Instead of making holes in the sheets which tend to damage the seedlings, they join the sheets between the plants with staplers.
Now, do you see the blue tube running between the plants?
They are actually water hoses (or pipes, as you like)
The water spring out of the tube exactly between the plants.
That is, there will be enough space left between the vynil sheets for the seedlings to be watered twice a week for 15 minutes.
Clever, isn’t it?
Maintaining the plants and picking the fruit is impossible work to do standing or kneeling.
The Yamaguchis and many other strawberry growers use that clever contraption to “run/roll” between the rows and work in relative ease!
Strawberry season lasts from about Novemebr 15th and 31 st of May.
The best season are December and May as for for sweetness. February see the largest fruits while the largest production occurs in March.
Look forward to my next report in December!
Yamaguchi Benihoppe Strawberry Farm
410-2114, Izu no Kuni, Nan-jo, 8