Tag Archives: Strawberries

Japan Gastronomy and Society: Own picked Straberries on Sale in Shizuoka City!

if you go to the country in Japan, especially in farming-rich areas you will discover many people selling thir own garden/field fruit or vegetables on makeshift stands.

I found this stand yesterday in the entrance of a small company building whose business is totally unrelated to farming but whose owner apparently grows his own benihoppe/Red Cheeks Strawberries.
He had put quite a lot on sale. 300 yen for at leat 500 grams of small but delicious, especilally for jams, is dead cheap!

Since “grown at home” is mentioned the company owner’s family muts be a local farming family!

A simple box is left on the stand for coins to be put inside.
Nobody was ther to look after it.
Back home in France the strawberries and the money box would have disappeared within five minutes!

No wonder Japan is such a safe and resilient country!

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Green Tea Club by Satoshi Nihonyanagi in Shizuoka!, Mind Some by Tina in Taiwan, Le Manger by Camille Oger (French), The Indian Tourist, Masala Herb by Helene Dsouza in Goa, India, Mummy I Can Cook! by Shu Han in London, Pierre.Cuisine, Francescannotwrite, My White Kitchen, 47 Japanese Farms Through The Eyes of Its Rural Communities, Foodhoe, Chucks Eats, Things that Fizz & Stuff, Five Euro Food by Charles,Red Shallot Kitchen by Priscilla,With a Glass, Nami | Just One Cookbook, Peach Farm Studio, Clumsyfingers by Xethia, PepperBento,Adventures in Bento Making, American Bent, Beanbento, Bento No, Bento Wo Tsukurimashou, Cooking Cute, Eula, Hapabento , Happy Bento, Jacki’s Bento Blog, Kitchen Cow, Leggo My Obento, Le Petit Journal Bento & CO (French), Lunch In A Box,
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Must-see tasting websites:

-Sake: Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
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-Beer: Good Beer & Country Boys, Another Pint, Please!
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery

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Fruit Cocktails by Wataru Matsumoto 12: Ookimi & Toukun Strawberries

This article could well been titled “Strawberries: From the Shizuoka Producer to the Gastronomic Table: Cocktails at Botanical!

After Gentil, I went to visit my good friend, Wataru Matumoto/松本亙, bartender/owner at Botanical, Shizuoka City to ask him to create a couple of his famous fruit cocktails with the Ookimi and Tokun Strawberries from Yaizu City!

Ookimi Strawberries on the left and Toukun Strawberries on the right!

Toukun Strawberry Cocktail (Cai Pirigna style)

These strawberries have a very strong perfume of peaches although their taste is llight and elegant.

INGREDIENTS:

-Strawberries: 2 large, diced
-Cachaca 51 (Brazilian Sugar cane rum, 40 degrees proof): 1 measure
-Sugar: 2~3 teaspoons
-Lime juice, 1 cut
-Crushed ice: 1 cup

RECIPE:

-Dice/cut the strawberries
-In a large glass drop the strawberries and all other ingredients.
-Shake the whole Boston-style.
-Pour in a “rock glass”.
-Top with some more crushed ice and decorate with a strawberry.

Keep a spoon handy, especially if you are in a hurry.
You can either drink this very refreshing cocktail slowly or eat it!
Rum enhances the strawberries for a very elegant drink

Ookimi Strawberry Champagne Cocktail

These strawberries have a great balance bewteen sweetness and acidity and an elegant taste.

INGREDIENTS:

-Ookimi Strawberries: 3
-Syrup: 1~2 teaspoons
-Mumm Champagne: 1 measure
-Absinthe/Pastis: half a teaspoon
-Crushed ice: just a little

RECIPE:

-Pour all the ingredients into a blender and blend well.
-Add 1 more measure of Mumm Champagen and pour into a long glass.
Decorate with a star anise seed.

Very elegant with the sweetness of the strawberries appearing late on your palate!

BOTANICAL (Comfort Bar)
420-0082 Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Ryogae-cho, 1-6-13, Shade Bldg, 1F
Tel.: 054-221-8686
Opening hours: 17:00~01:00
Closed on Mondays.
Credit Cards OK

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Strawberries: From the Shizuoka Producer to the Gastronomic Table: Gentil!

Ms. Keiko Kubota/久保田敬子 at Gentil Restaurant

Ranking
Service: very professional
Facilities: Very clean, superb facilities.
Prices:~ Slightly expensive to expensive
Strong points: Beautiful and fresh ingredients presented and combined to perfection. Local ingredients whenever possible. Superb wine list. The best cheese trays in Japan! Everything thoroughly and kindly explained!

Map

Toukun Strawberries

Yesterday I visited my good friend, Ms. Keiko Kubota, Maître D’Hôte at Gentil/ジャンテイ・レストラン, the oldest French Restaurant in Town and probably Prefecture.
I do not need to introduce this extremely talented lady who has attained national and international fame as the only Japanese Compagnon d’Honneur du Guilde des Fromagers (フランス熟成士の組合ギルドデフロマージュからコンパニオンドヌール)!
The reason for my sudden visit was to introduce her to new strawberries that have just been created in Shizuoka Prefecture, namely Ookimi/おおきみ and Toukun/桃薫 produced by an association of 6 farmers in Yaizu and Fujieda Cities.
Not only did I introduce her to these beauties, but I also challenged her to create (with her chef) a couple of gastronomic delights!

Sautéed Foie Gras with Toukun strawberries, fried and glazed Toukun Strawberry, Foie Gras Mousse on Aromatic Herbs Tile and Toukun Strawberry Jelly!

Now, for the explanations!

The foie gras was sautéed as it is (its own fat is enough) with a little salt and pepper and served with slices of one half Toukun strawberry.

The other half of the Toukun strawberry was lightly fried and glazed in its own natural sugar.
The leftover juices of the strawberry were combined with those of the foie gras with a little Madeira wine for a perfect sauce!
Great balance between relatively acid strawberries and strong-flavored foie gras!

A tile (タイル) perfumed with aromatic herbs, arching above some cress, was then topped with foie gras mousse decorated with jelly made from the same strawberry!

Ookimi Strawberries

An Ookimi strawberry Farandole (ファランドル)!

Farandole is a dance from the South of France, meaning that all participants join hands in a dancing circle.

The Ookimi strawberries were delicately cut and placed in a circle with small balls of ice cream and sorbet in their centre.

Can you guess the ice creams and sorbets?
Strawberry, Vanilla, Yoghurt and Panacotta!
All elegance!
The perfect dessert for ladies?

I don’t have to tell that I’m also looking forward to Ms. Kubota’s creations with other Shizuoka products I will bring her soon!

Restaurant Gentil
Address:420-0031 Shizuoka Shi, Gofuku-cho, 2-9-1, Gennan Kairaku building, 2F
Tel.: 054-2547655 (Reservations advisable)
Fax: 054-2210509
Opening hours: 12:00~14:00, 18:00~last orders for meals at 21:30. Bar time 18:00~23:30. Closed on Mondays.
Credit cards OK
Homepage (Japanese)

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Strawberries: Akihime Strawberries at Mochizuki Garden

The other day I was back on the road (I mean i”n the fields”!) with my always so young friend, Mrs. Natsuko Koyanagi/小柳奈津子 to interview a strawberry farmer and family in Yuyama/湯山 on the other side of the Abe River/安部川 in Shizuoka City.

As you can see on the above pictures we were right in the middle of the peak season and they Mochizukis were very kind to let me interview them. The fact that Natsuko came to explain half of the “story” certainly helped as usual!

Mr. Mitsuhiro Mochizuki/望月光広 (65) is a first-generation grower as far as strawberries are concerned.

He certainly needs all the help from his wife, Aiko/愛子 (65) and that of

his son, Fumihiko/文彦 (40) who came back to the family business 7 years ago, ensuring the future of the enterprise.

They exclusively grow “Akihime Strawberries/章姫苺”, which were first developped in Kuno/久野, Shizuoka City along the seashore in 1992 by a grower called Hagiwara Akihiro/萩原章弘 who gave half of his own name “Aki/章” and “Hime/Princess/姫” in reference to his daughter when he came to naming his new strawberries!
Akihime Strawberries have the particularity to be sweet with no acidity.

The very independently-minded Mochizuki family not being a member of any agricultural association grow, pick, package and deliver everything by themselves. Their strawberries will find their way directly to large wholesalers or private customers.
“Yuyama Strawberries” being very popular, they don’t bother grow much else!
I found their strawberries more akin to those I used to eat back in France and quickly bought 4 packs of them (ridiculously cheap!)!

Their 16 greenhouses are lined up along the narrow road just next to their house.
More than half of them have to be surrounded with electric wires because of the hakubishin/白鼻芯/civets!

As for the pollinating bees, they buy them every year as raising them proved too problematical.

As for equipment and cultivation methods, these are pretty standard, although care and attention makes “the” big difference!

The reason why Yuyama strawberries are popular and of high quality mainly resides in the fact that this paricular area goes through wide differences of temperature which improve the shape and quality of the fruit.

I can assure you they deserve their great reputation!
I’d like to take the opportunity here to thank the Mochizuki family for allowing me to interview them in the middle of their work and Natsuko for her great help!

Mochizuki Akihime Strawberry Garden
Shizuoka Ken, Shizuoka Shi, Aoi Ku, Yuyama, 826-2
Tel.: 054-294-0523
Private orders through the phone welcome.

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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!

Enormous flowers!

Tokun samples ready to be transported away!

For comparison:
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
Hajime Matsuda/松田肇
Junya Suzuki/鈴木淳也
Kousuke Takada/高田剛佑
Kazunori Kawamura/川村和徳
Takeo Ikegaya/池谷猛夫
Masahiro Masuda/増田昌弘

Contact:
Hajime Matsuda/松田肇
421-0213 Shizuoka Ken, Yaizu Shi, Habuchi, 774
421-0213静岡県焼津市飯淵774
Mobile: 09012934605
Tel./fax: 054-622-0915
Mail: six_berry_farmers@yahoo.co.jp

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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 abandoned 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 abandoned 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 against 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 inside the greenhouses. They fight pests in many 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.

Strawberry flowers.

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 Christmas, the plants will be regularly pruned to allow only for large strawberries.

But I was offered no less than 4 boxes of these great large specimens!

Enormous!
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
Tel.: 055-949-2330

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Shizuoka Agricultural Products: 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 strawberries, exclusively of the 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 developed 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 strawberry 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!
Artificial pollination would be too cumbersome and will not be uniform with the consequence of misshaped fruits.
The Yamaguchis breed their own bees in 16 beehives, one for each greenhouse.
Don’t worry, they eat and share the honey!

Fruit size will depend on how well the flowers are pollinated.
Only the strict minimum of fertilizer will be dispensed until the soil is covered with vinyl sheets.
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 vinyl 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 springs out of the tube exactly between the plants.
That is, there will be enough space left between the vinyl 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 November 15th and 31st of May.
The best season are December and May as 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
Tel.: 055-949-2330

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