A rich environment produces rich ingredients — Hiroshima (Part2)2019.07.10

Green asparagus, grown with love

The wide temperature range in the mountains behind Hiroshimais said to favour the growing of vegetables with a great depth of flavour, and the Miyoshi Basin, in particular, produces a great variety of delicious vegetables. When it comes to green asparagus, Chef Hiroki Hiramatsu insists on asparagus from Okamoto Farm.

Okamoto Farm is one of the leading asparagus producers in Hiroshima Prefecture, and owners Mr Akinori and Mrs Kumi Okamoto devote enormous care and attention to their work.

Mr Akinori Okamoto and Mrs Kumi

“Originally, we ran a chicken farm, but about 30 years ago we started growing asparagus, and the roots we planted then are still producing fine crops today.”

The Okamotos worked together to clear the land they farm and decided to focus on quality over quantity, competing with each other to achieve constant improvement. Their asparagus reflects the loving care and attention they devote to their work.

As Chef Hiramatsu says, “Okamoto Farm’s asparagus is completely different from others in its depth of flavour, its crunchiness and its freshness”, and it is highly regarded by chefs all over Japan.

“Try some just like this,” Mr Okamoto said, offering some freshly picked asparagus.The Restaurant Hiramatsu Hiroo staff who had come with Chef Hiramatsu were amazed by the flavour.

Left to right: Restaurant Hiramatsu Hiroo’s Chef Hiroki Hiramatsu, Manager Takahiro Goto, and service staff member Masami Kono

Like her own child

“At first, we tried growing it in open fields, but the weather is so variable that we switched to greenhouses. Even then, we can get a cold summer or heavy snow or rain, so it’s never the same two years running. We learn something new every year.” The area is known for its high rainfall, and the Okamotos’ crop often suffers rain damage.

“For about eight months in the year, I go round every day checking that my babies are OK,” said Mrs Okamoto. “My babies”: those affectionate words show how much love she puts into growing hercrop.

Mr Okamoto said, confidently, “The thickness of the stems and the flavour depend on the health of the roots, whichsupply all the energy for growing. The asparagus we get from our oldest roots, which have been in the ground for 30 years, is wonderfully thick; but more than that, the freshness and flavour are totally different from other asparagus.”Chef Hiramatsu agreed: there are some dishes for which no other asparagus will do.

In their village deep in the mountains, Mr and Mrs Okamoto lavish love and care on their asparagus, and we are sure that is one reason why it tastes so good.Our big concern is that the Okamotos are getting older, and they need someone dependable to pass their business on to. We can only hope and pray that someone who will devote the same loving care and attention to growing vegetables will turn up.

A rich environment produces rich ingredients — Hiroshima (Part2)
text :
Paragraph Ltd.
Photography :
Masashi Nagao
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