In this edition of SHUNGATE we present a magnificent gift idea: an assortment of locally produced dried fruit varieties called Seven Fruits. All of the fruit is picked in season and dried whole, using no additives or preservatives whatsoever.
Seven Fruits is made from 100% natural dried fruit, and is perfect for the health conscious and as snacks for the children. It’s also wonderful as a gift to show that special someone you care.
Here are some great reasons why Seven Fruits is a great gift idea.
Seven Fruits is made entirely from fruit grown in Japan and harvested in season, so it has the heady fragrance that you can only get from seasonal fruit. And the drying process enhances the flavor and fragrance even further.
Seven Fruits consists of two apple varieties along with shiranui, mikan (Japanese tangerine), kaki (Japanese persimmon), nashi pear and watermelon. These all have different harvest seasons, which means that only Seven Fruits gives you the opportunity to enjoy them all at the same time.
Seven Fruits contains no additives, colorings or flavorings, added sugar or oil. This means that all you can taste is the pure natural flavor of the fruit. The drying process brings out the full natural flavor of the fruit, the natural sweetness and acidity, and that distinctive dry fruit texture.
“Our goal was to make a dried fruit product that we would be proud of.”
These are the words of Akiko Watanabe of Watasui, the manufacturer and distributor of Seven Fruits, which is located at Sukagawa in Fukushima Prefecture. At a time when dried fruit products available in Japan are generally made from fruit grown in the tropical southern countries and/or contain additives such as sugar and oil, Watanabe wanted to create an all-natural product made from locally grown fruit.
The initial impetus for Watanabe’s project was the 2011 earthquake and tsunami and the radiation issue in Fukushima Prefecture. Consumers were actively shunning agricultural produce from Fukushima, and large volumes were at risk of going to waste. Watanabe resolved to do something to help the region get back on its feet. Her response was Fukushima Foods Revival (F2R), a retail operation dedicated to selling additive free dried fruit products made from fruit grown in Japan.
Watanabe and her team soon realized that the food wastage problem was not confined solely to regions affected by the earthquake and tsunami: all over Japan, huge volumes of agricultural produce were being regularly thrown out for failing to meet the exacting standards of buyers. This discovery only served to provide further motivation for their mission to find a new use for non-standard fruit: as a premium home-grown dried fruit product.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing at first. Many farmers were unwilling to part with their produce, even when it would otherwise have gone to waste.
“You have to build trust with farmers,” explains Watanabe. “They’ve lavished care and attention on their produce and they want to be confident that it will be used in the right way. So we had to take it slowly and build our brand until farmers understood who we were and were prepared to deal with us.”
It took two whole years before F2R was able to secure a consistent supply of domestic fruit for the business.
The first product to be launched was dried apples. The product was named Goen Ringo. The word goen is an acknowledgement of the tremendous support from various quarters after the initial earthquake as well as floods that occurred six months later; ringo means apple.
Apples are sliced into rounds and semi-dried. At first glance, the slices look like fresh apple, but they have the distinctive soft pliant texture of dried fruit. It’s an addictive taste sensation and once hooked you’re sure to be back for more.
The success of Goen Ringo spurred Watanabe on to try different types of fruit, such as nashi pears, persimmon, shiranui and even watermelon, which has a much higher water content than other fruits. The aim was to identify fruits that when dried would produce the right texture, while retaining the inherent natural fragrance and flavor and acidity of the original.
Not surprisingly, Watanabe has many ideas for things to do with dried fruit. “The best way to enjoy dried fruit is to eat it straight out of the pack,” she says. “But if you put a bit of yoghurt on top and leave it for a while, the sweetness from the fruit starts to permeate through the yoghurt, making an absolutely wonderful flavor. You can add dried fruit to tea to make your own fruit tea, or to wine to make a simple sangria. Detox water is popular in summer, and a bit of dried fruit is a lovely way to give it some extra flavor.”
Watanabe and her team started producing the dried fruit products using mainly local produce from Fukushima and the Tohoku region. But today they source non-standard fruit from all over Japan, including citrus varieties from the western end of the country, to save it from being sent to waste.
“Wastage of agricultural produce is a major issue all over Japan,” says Watanabe. “We want to get as many farmers on board as we can. Our next goal is to set up a network of offices throughout the country. Adding value to non-standard agricultural produce not only reduces food wastage, it also brings concrete benefits to farming communities.”
All-natural additive-free dried fruit is a taste sensation. It’s also good for farmers and good for the environment.
“We call it the Happy Cycle, what we’re trying to do for the environment. Our mission is to spread the Happy Cycle message far and wide by promoting our natural dried fruit offerings,” concludes Watanabe.
So why not be part of the Happy Cycle by purchasing Seven Fruits as a gift for that special someone? It’s a delicious 100% natural product that’s sure to be appreciated.
Writer : MICHIKO NII / Photographer : CHIE MARUYAMA
*Some of the images posted on our website have been provided by those whom we interviewed.
|Location||22 Oroshimachi, Sukagawa-shi, Fukushima Prefecture|