Strawberries reach their peak season between January and early spring. They charm everyone young and old with their cute, bright red appearance and sweet and sour aroma.
In this article, we will introduce strawberry sorbet and strawberry wafer ice cream by strawberry producer Strawberry Hunt from Kawashima Town, Saitama Prefecture. The sumptuous ice cream is made with carefully selected ingredients, including chunks of ripe strawberries nurtured by the commitment of the grower.
Let’s take a look at why the strawberry sorbet and strawberry wafer ice cream make great gifts.
The ice cream features lots of ripe strawberries grown by Strawberry Hunt. Fully matured during the peak season and individually picked by hand, the aromatic strawberries are put into the ice cream when they have the best taste and are most nutritious due to their many vitamins.
The strawberry sorbet contains lots of ripe strawberry chunks. When we tasted the beautiful-colored sorbet, the strawberries’ deliciously sweet and sour aroma and crispy, refreshing texture filled our mouth.
Filled solidly with mild strawberry milk ice cream, the delightful donut-shaped wafer ice cream offers both the crispy texture of the wafers and the rich taste of strawberry milk.
We visited Strawberry Hunt, a strawberry farm in Kawajima Town, Saitama Prefecture, about an hour’s drive from Tokyo. Arrays of bright red strawberries at their peak welcomed us inside the plastic greenhouse. Under the warm sunshine, honeybees were whizzing incessantly from flower to flower. Usually, greenhouses for strawberries are almost hot even during the winter, but inside Strawberry Hut’s greenhouse, it felt slightly cooler than usual.
“If it gets too warm, the strawberries ripen instantly and do not sweeten. To let them ripen and sweeten over a long time, we ventilate the greenhouse as much as we can to adjust the temperature,” says Satoshi Matsugami, who represents Strawberry Hunt.
Strawberry Hunt mainly grows Beni Hoppe and Akihime strawberries. They principally sell ripe strawberries only locally, after harvesting them in the morning. At the weekends, they also hold strawberry picking events, which attract customers from around Kanto and international tourists both young and old, looking for ripe strawberries of the best season.
Matsugami let us taste a freshly picked strawberry. The first surprise was its size, probably a few times larger than the usual strawberries we see at supermarkets. Usually, strawberries are considered sweet when they have sweetness level of about 13-15, but astoundingly, the sweetness level of Matsugami’s strawberries is approximately 18. Not only are they sweet, but they are also very juicy with a lot of moisture. They also have a great texture, and a refreshing sourness that shoots up our nose.
“The strawberries will not taste great unless they mature on the trees. That is why we only pick fully ripe strawberries in the morning and sell them here on the day,” says Matsugami.
As we interviewed Matsugami, people visited the greenhouse one after another to buy the bright red strawberries displayed at the entrance and the strawberries sold out before the interview was over.
Matsugami was originally a local construction worker but turned his hand to strawberry farming in 2010. Even though Kawashima was originally home to many strawberry farms, the number of the farms declined over the years. Matsugami saw this and decided to switch to strawberry farming, wanting to keep the tradition in Kawashima.
According to Matsugami, the taste of strawberries will be affected not just by the local climate and environment, but also by how they are grown. Matsugami is a member of Soilless Strawberry Culture Study Group, a group of producers mainly comprising strawberry producers of Saitama who grow strawberries by elevated culturing. For Matsugami, it is a constant process of trial and error. He is always thinking about how to grow tasty strawberries. He visits the greenhouses of other members, samples their strawberries, and changes the temperature of his greenhouses, the level of watering, and how to put light over strawberries every year.
After all this, Strawberry Hunt started to manufacture ice cream, a processed item, around 2015. Strawberries taste best and the yield is highest during their peak season. However, they do not last long. When Matsugami was thinking about how he could use the excess ripe strawberries from the peak season, he was introduced to a processing company in Saitama through a friend of his from the study group and started manufacturing and selling ice cream.
Of course, the ice cream features ample amounts of Matsugami’s ripe strawberries. Matsugami manufactures processed items because he wants as many people as possible to experience the great taste of strawberries grown carefully over a long time. The ice cream made with the careful attention of the strawberry farm has become widely known and after more items were introduced each year, Matsugami now gets many orders from both inside and outside of the prefecture.
“I would like to help the young farmers who will carry the town’s future as much as possible. That is why I started to produce processed items.”
Matsugami wishes to deliver the great taste of strawberries to as many people as possible and wants to pass on strawberry farming to future generations of local farmers. Why not taste the strawberry ice cream from Strawberry Hunt, created from his commitment?
Writer : KAORI NOZAWA / Photographer : CHIZU TAKAKURA / SATOSHI TACHIBANA
|Location||1072 Kamiomino, Kawajima-town, Hiki District, Saitama Prefecture|
|Hours||Strawberry sale starts at 9:30, closes when sold out Strawberry picking: reception begins at 10:00 (closes when strawberries in season end) December through May: Intermittently closed (please check the dates on the company website or by phone)|
※ The strawberry ice cream can be purchased locally or ordered by phone.