"Spending Time in the Hokkaido Farmland (1)" - These leafy greens turn sweeter than strawberries in the winter snow!
Today I'd like to tell you Hokkaido Likers about some economic development projects in the Wassamu Town area. I spoke with one Mr. Nakano to find out more, here's what he had to say!
Hello everyone! My name is Toshiki Nakano, and I'm with the Wassamu Town Economic Development Committee. I moved to Wassamu Town two and a half years ago from Tokyo. Today I'd like to tell you about something that really surprised me when I first moved here. The ridiculously sweet 'Winter Cabbage' available from the town!
Although it is quite common practice in colder regions to harvest vegetables which have been laying dormant under the snow, the cultivation of winter cabbage is said to have originated in Wassamu Town. (Which means we can use 'Winter Cabbage' as our town's namesake!)
The town first began producing the cabbage in the winter of 1968. It all began when a farmer left his crop sitting in the fields long into winter due to low selling prices. He discovered that, when snows began melting the next spring, the veggies were still ripe for the eating! After testing the sales potential and finding prices quite high he did the same thing the next year, and now the process is used by many farmers to help create the Wassamu brand of winter cabbage.
The process is simple, just before it snows farmers arrange cabbages, which have had their roots cut off ,on a plastic sheet. Then it's just a matter of waiting for snowfall to accumulate.
After the snow has completely covered the plants, around December, the farmers begin he process of digging the cabbages out.
Due to the large amount of snowfall, the process of digging the cabbages out begins with heavy machinery. Although the picture above may look like a regular snowy field, rest assured there are tons of cabbages resting just below the surface!
Once the snow above the cabbages has been removed, the individual veggies are dug out by hand. If the plants are injured in any way they can't be sold, so the farmers take special caution during this time.
Here are some pictures of the process, it's quite an interesting sight!
After digging up the cabbages, extra root growth as well as the surface leaves are removed.
The outer leaves of the cabbage go bad as the plants sit dormant under the snow, so they are removed before shipping the product. That's all it takes to make delicious winter cabbage! The color of the veggie is a bit paler than cabbages harvested regularly.
Even after taking one bite the difference in taste is obvious, they're so sweet! The sugar content of these cabbages reaches around 11%! (For comparison strawberries are usually 8% or 9%!) The core of the cabbage is the sweetest part. Eaten raw the texture is a bit hard, so I recommend steaming or boiling the veggie before enjoying. The sweetness means that the plant goes with many different foods. (Of course the taste of the raw cabbage is also delicious!)
"Winter Cabbage" from Wassamu Town are one of Hokkaido's delicious winter delicacies. If you spot them in a shop be sure to try them!
Hokuren Shop - Wassamu Shop: 0165-32-6011
Wassamu Information can be found on Facebook:
☆The "Hpokkaido Farmland" series is dedicated to bringing you interesting or surprising agricultural activities from across Hokkaido. We go out and speak with different agricultural groups in the hopes of bringing you an inside look at interesting farming practices or products.
(Hokkaido Likers Writer - Gakkun)
Some photographs provided by 和寒町地域おこし協力隊隊員 中野利樹.