2014.01.25 apples

Japanese apples are legendary for their gigantic round shape, sweet taste and a hefty price tag due to their flawless appearance. Recently, a “new” kind of apple has been getting popular in the mountainous and very snowy prefecture of Nagano. It seems that apple growers there have decided to make the most of the winter precipitation that covers their fields by burying freshly picked apples for several months under a huge pile of snow. The “snow apples” are said to be even juicier, crisper and sweeter after spending the winter months hibernating under the snow.

But how can you make a snow apple, and what other tasty produce can you bury in the snow? Click below to find out!

Apple pickers in Ueda City in Nagano started selling these snow apples about five years ago. About 15,000 apples are harvested between late November and early December and placed in crates on the Sugadai plateau in the city. Snow can reach as high as four meters on the plateau and the crates of apples are buried underneath it until March. They are then dug out and sold as “snow apples.”

▼Packing the snow apples into crates to be buried under the snow

2014.01.25 apples packingImage: JA Shishu Ueda

The local agricultural association says that the snow keeps the apples in an optimum refrigeration level at around zero degrees Celsius and humidity levels above 90%. This “natural refrigerator” makes the apples extra juicy with a crisp bite. People also say that these apples have a much sweeter taste than regular apples.

▼Delicious and photogenic snow apples

2014.01.25 apples いいImage: JA Shishu Ueda

This year, the apple farmers put more than 4,200 kg of the fruit under snow and expect their sixth year to be their best yet. They will be sold at local events and over the Internet. Several types of apples were buried, such as fuji apples, pink lady and Nagano’s famous varieties: Shinano Gold and Shinano Sweet.

▼Taking a look at last year’s crop of snow apples

2014.01.25 apples unpackingImage: JA Shishu Ueda

But apples aren’t the only thing being buried under snow! In the Minami-Aizu area of Fukushima Prefecture, where cold weather and heavy snowfalls are the norm, farmers there are starting to use the difficult climate to their advantage. Instead of hurrying to harvest their crops before the snow hits, farmers instead leave the crops to grow as the snow falls and pick them at the end of winter.

▼Cabbage growing under snow in Fukushima

2014.01.25 cabbageImage: Fukushima Prefecture

Vegetables growing under the snow are said to be a little sweeter and have a richer taste than conventionally grown crops. Farmers have been growing cabbage, carrots, Japanese radishes, yams and all sort of vegetables using this method lately and produce-lovers around Japan are starting to pay attention.

Meanwhile, in Niigata Prefecture, where meter-high snowbanks become the norm during the long, snowy winters, farmers there have recently started growing “snow carrots,” which have become especially popular with kids as they don’t have the “grassy” smell typical to most carrots.

▼An ad for snow carrots from Niigata saying they’re “as sweet as a fruit”

2014.01.25 carrotsImage: Bimiranman

The snow carrots have more amino acids like glycine and asparagine, which is the cause of the sweeter taste. They also have more caryophyllene, which gives the snow-grown carrots a pleasant aroma.

These “snow vegetables” have been gaining popularity in Japan as they make their way all over Japan. And Japanese farmers in cold regions that may have a tough time in the harsh winter months are probably more than happy to be able to provide a unique product.

▼A Nagoya department store display with snow vegetables from Hokkaido: (Right to left) nagaimo yam, Japanese radish and cabbage

2014.01.25 matsuzaka vegeImage: Twitter (matsuzaka_tyt)

Have you ever had crops that were either stored in grown under the snow? Are they really that much better from their time spent under the snow? We would love to hear about your review of “snow fruit” or “snow vegetables” in the comments section below!

Feature Image: JA Shishu Ueda
Source: Naver Matome