Even our cucumbers and eggplants are next-level! Producer:Kanako Watanabe

Fukushima summer-fall vegetables make her proud to be a Fukushima grower

Cucumbers are one of the signature summer vegetables of Fukushima. They’re grown all over the prefecture, and harvested throughout the summer and fall. In fact, Fukushima boasts Japan’s top yield of these “summer-fall cucumbers”. We asked young producer Kanako Watanabe about these cucumbers, and she was kind enough to tell us all about them. “It all comes down to the great climate--it’s simply perfect for growing things,” she explained. “There are huge temperature swings between day and night, we get just the right amount of rainfall, and there’s plenty of sunshine. The vegetables just grow and grow.”
Kanako’s farm is in a town called (Nishiaizu) Nishi-Aizu Town, right on the border of Niigata Prefecture. It’s a place with very distinct seasons, and she tells us that they can grow vegetables in all four of them--essentially year-round. In addition to cucumber, the summer season brings eggplant, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and a white corn that floods the palate with sweetness when fresh-picked and eaten raw.
Kanako is especially particular about the kind of soil she uses. “We realized that if we measure the soil components and supplement the minerals it lacks with fertilizers, we can restore its balance--which in turn makes the vegetables more nutritious,” she explained.
Cucumbers that are crisp, snappy, and rich in flavor. Eggplants that are tender and bursting with umami deliciousness. Kanako’s summer-fall vegetables are truly unlike any other.
“My family has been farming for generations,” she told us, “and I grew up watching my parents take pride in working the land. By the time I was in fifth or sixth grade, I told them I wanted to be a farmer, too.” Kanako went on to study at an agricultural junior college in Fukushima. She graduated on March 9 and walked out onto the farm, fulfilling her life’s dream, the very next day. The day after that, March 11, was the day that the Great East Japan Earthquake struck.
“Recovery certainly wasn’t easy,” she admitted. “But the earthquake made me realize how strong my identity was as a Fukushima farmer. We’re only here because previous generations tilled this same land and painstakingly developed our production techniques. They made everything possible for us. There was no way we could just let it all disappear.”
Hearing the fierce conviction in the stories of Fukushima producers like Kanako provides a glimpse into the pride they take in their produce. The only thing left to do is go out and taste the result of this Fukushima Pride in their summer-fall vegetables for yourself.

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