This series follows English teacher Bethany Johnson (Canada), living in and exploring the countryside of Sanagochi.
A Warm Welcome
Four years ago, one of my earliest memories of Sanagochi was being invited to this grove to pick kiwis. I learned a lot about how kiwis are cultivated and grown, and Mr. Higashino encouraged me to pick as many as I liked. Since then, I’ve been warmly welcomed back to this kiwi grove every year during the kiwi season. It’s become a beloved tradition for me; harvesting fruits with my friends, surrounded by lush and beautiful nature. And of course, enjoying time with the Higashinos. Misumi always prepares tea and sweets for those who visit the kiwi grove, so they can rest after filling their buckets. I always enjoy talking with and meeting new people here.
Kiwi Fruits Owner Program
Many people come every year to enjoy the experience of picking kiwis in the countryside, surrounded by Sanagochi’s beautiful nature. Mr. Higashino’s kiwi grove is part of the “Fruits Owner” program, where people from even outside of the prefecture can become “owners”, with the rights to harvest fruits every year.
Sanagochi’s variety of kiwis are special; Mr. Higashino cultivates them with reduced pesticides to produce healthy and firm fruits that get surprisingly large, with a tart and smooth sweetness. Many of the kiwis we have access to in Canada are imported from New Zealand, but Japanese kiwis really seem prized for their sweetness. They’re delicious.
One thing that surprised me, though, is that freshly picked kiwis are rock-hard! You need to let the fruit sit for a few weeks, or longer, in order to soften the flesh and sweeten the fruit. One tip I learned from Mr. Higashino: if you put an apple into a bag with several kiwis, it will hasten the ripening process so you can eat them sooner!
Although Sanagochi village is still a fairly hidden spot, even for many residents of Tokushima, because of Mr. Higashino’s initiative, his kiwis have become quite famous throughout not only Tokushima, but also Japan. Sanagochi is now #1 for kiwi production in Tokushima.
Misumi’s Kiwi Sweets
In her years of kiwi farming, Misumi has found other ways of using the kiwis they have in abundance. She makes things like sherbet and jam, but what particularly interested me was her mention of kiwi daifuku.
Daifuku is a Japanese confection that usually consists of a piece of fruit coated in sweet red or white bean paste, then wrapped in a rice flour shell. The most common type is strawberry daifuku; and the easiest to make, because of the fruit’s firmness and smaller size. Using kiwi in daifuku isn’t as common, because of the fruit’s high water content making the shell soggy more quickly. But if you can eat them right away, kiwi daifuku are fantastic!
Misumi prepared many fruits for us to practice before we tried making kiwi daifuku. In Sanagochi, they produce a lot of strawberries, kiwis and oranges, so we got to make many Sanagochi-style daifuku.
How to make Kiwi Daifuku
First, peel and cut the kiwi, then coat it in red bean paste. Smooth bean paste works the best here; you can choose either red or white, but white is more popular for its presentation. We tried both. It’s messy work, but a lot of fun.
Next, the dough is made in the microwave by mixing rice flour, sugar, and a little water. It is heated, stirred, then heated again. When it cools but is still warm, mix in a bit of potato starch and split the dough into balls. Flatten each piece and add the fruit in the middle; pull the dough around it until completely covered, then roll until smooth. This part is tricky! Some of them didn’t turn out quite so beautiful, but at least the taste was on point!
There you have it, kiwi daifuku! Definitely the tastiest of the three, in my opinion. I love the smooth, tart sweetness of the kiwi combined with the bean paste and mochi shell.
If you have the chance, why not visit Sanagochi and give kiwi harvesting a try?
Ingredients for daifuku →
Strawberry/fruits - about 6
White/red bean paste - 150g
Refined rice flour - 100g
Sugar - 30g
Water - 2ml
Potato starch - add as needed