What is Green Farm?
Our location today was a facility called Green Farm which connects Kagoshima City to nature and agriculture.
Since Kagoshima Prefecture is well known for its nature and wealth of fresh produce, each season on Green Farm provides visitors with new and unique experiences. In this particular article, I’ll introduce the satoimo and Satsumaimo harvest activities, which are not only available at the incredible value of 200yen each, but also allow you to take home around what you’ve picked (what you are allowed to pick varies by vegetable)!
Such hands on agricultural facilities are rare in my home country of the United States, and many other areas of the world where many farms are scarce, or not open to the public. That’s why Green Farm is a personal must-visit spot for any visitors to Kagoshima!
What is Sato-imo?
This is the first vegetable we harvested. Sato-imo is a kind of root vegetable, perhaps more familiar by the name “taro” in the English-speaking world. While it is seen as an invasive species in the Southeastern United States, it is regularly eaten in many places such as Japan, the Philippines, and Malaysia.
The Japanese name, “sato-imo,” is said to come from the word “furusato” which can be translated as “hometown.” This is because, compared to other similar root vegetables, these grew closer to peoples’ homes rather than on mountains. They are typically planted in mid- to late April, and harvested from mid-September to late October.
Somewhat different from other root vegetables, the “parent” root (biggest portion pictured) sprouts from the initial seed (at the very bottom). The sato-imo which then sprout from the parent root (called the “children” and “grandchildren,” pictured connected to the “parent”) are the ones used primarily in dishes in Japan.
In addition to growing pretty deep underground, the shape makes it easy for soil to cling onto so harvesting them can be heavy work!
What is Satsuma-imo?
The second vegetable we picked was Satsuma-imo!
This is a type of sweet potato eaten widely throughout Japan. While this sweet potato originates elsewhere, Kagoshima is most well-known for producing it in high quantities. This explains how it got its name—“Satsuma” is the old name for Kagoshima! In some places, Mandarin oranges are also known as Satsuma so the name may already be familiar to some.
The root pictured is initially planted in the soil mounds where Satsuma-imo grow; some of the roots absorb nutrients which are then fed into what become the Satsuma-imo! Similar to sato-imo, they are planted between early May and late June, and harvested between late September and late November.
Unfortunately, since they are not buried as deep underground as sato-imo, Satsuma-imo are liable to being dug out of their mounds and eaten by local animals like opossums and wild pigs.
Fresh Satsuma-imo produce a white liquid (called jalapin) when broken off from the main root. Though it dries into a dark substance which is difficult to remove from skin and clothes, it lets you know that the potato is fresh! Jalapin is a nutrient said to help your stomach and intestines operate smoothly.
How to prepare Sato-imo:
Due to this vegetable’s fibrous roots and skin, peeling it bare-handed can result in itchiness. Here are two very effective methods to prepare sato-imo for eating!
The first method is to boil the sato-imo for 10 minutes, then cool them under cold water. This should make them simple to peel by hand!
- The second method starts with washing the dirt from the sato-imo under running water.
- Without drying them, place them on a dish and lightly wrap them in plastic wrap.
- Microwave them for 2-5 minutes (estimate at 600w). This should be adjusted by the size and amount of sato-imo used. Please be careful not to overcook them.
- Let them cool down and then peel!
They can be used in soups or stir-fried with other vegetables as seen below!
- Allow them to air-dry for 3-5 days without washing the dirt off
- Gently brush the dirt off of the potatoes by hand
- Wrap each potato individually in newspaper and store them somewherecool, dry, and dark
These sweet potatoes are most delicious when roasted, and are often eaten as a treat in the colder seasons. Cooking them on low heat for a long time is the best way to draw out their sweetness.
As I introduced initially, Green Farm is a facility in Kagoshima City that bring nature and agriculture closer to people who may be unfamiliar with or intimidated by it.
In addition to the hands-on programs introduced above, Green Farm offers a restaurant, a shop with local goods, and even an overnight cabin lodging and harvesting program at certain times of year.
The lodging and harvesting program is currently available through the end of November for the shockingly low price of \100 per person. More involved 2-day camping festivals are held as well with participation fees starting at \5,000! Natural environments like the one in Kagoshima aren’t common, so if you happen to have the chance to participate in one of these events, they’re perfect to experience with family or friends!
(From the Green Farm Official Facebook Page)
Green Farm is open from 9:00 – 17:00 between November and March, and from 8:30 – 18:00 between April and October, and closed from December 29 to January 1. Homepage: http://kankonogyo-park.jp/