Ibaraki is the top chestnut producing prefecture in Japan in terms of production and land. Nakata expressed his surprise when he picked up one of the Iinuma Chestnuts grown in Shimoiinuma.
“Are chestnuts supposed to be this big?”
His surprise is understandable. Iinuma Chestnuts, which are grown in Shimoiinuma region located in the central portion of Ibaraki prefecture, can grow to more than 4cm in diameter. The round, plump chestnuts are packed tightly, making them weigh more than most chestnuts as well.
“Iinuma Chestnuts” is not a variety of chestnuts, but a brand name given to chestnuts grown and shipped by the Shimoiinuma Chestnut Growers Coop.
There are more than 100 varieties of chestnuts around the world. Iinuma Chestnuts are of the “ishizuchi” variety and are grown using technology that was carefully perfected over 50 years.
In order to set them apart, Iinuma Chestnuts are a premium brand that are shipped at a different timing from other brands.
In 2017, “Iinuma Chestnuts” the first chestnut variety to receive GI certification, making them an officially recognized regional brand with more than 25 years of history.
At the Tokyo market, they are also recognized as “top quality chestnuts”, bringing double the market value of other chestnuts. It is a supreme brand that is recognized by other chestnut growers.
“Most chestnuts have 3 pieces in every burr, but there is only a single piece in Iinuma Chestnuts. So the piece is round overall with no flat surfaces.” (Naoto Higashizaki, Shimoiinuma Chestnut Growers Coop)
This method of growing only one piece in each burr is unique to Shimoiinuma, and the specially developed technology is a well kept secret only known to 11 growers. The chestnut are harvested in a special manner as well.
“The chestnut naturally falls out from the burr when they become ripe, allowing us to avoid having to harvest the burr. Since there’s only 1 piece each, it’s easy to harvest, even though we harvest about 50 tons all together (laughing).” (Mr. Higashizaki)
The most popular way to enjoy them is to boil them.
Scooping out a piece of steaming chestnut with a spoon, the chestnut has a sweetness that is sophisticated.
It’s like taking a bite of a chestnut snack.
“I ate a lot of chestnuts when I lived in Italy, but none were this big and the flavor was cruder.” (Nakata)
Iinuma Chestnuts are shipped in late October to mid-November, later than the standard chestnuts. This is because the chestnuts are washed after they are harvested, and only the carefully selected pieces are stored in cold storage covered in sawdust for 14 to 20 days. This allows the chestnut to sweeten without drying or rotting. They are then removed from storage, dried and go through the second selection process. The chestnut must go through a third selection process, this time by other members of the coop, before they are graded and shipped.
“It’s difficult to grow large chestnuts, especially because they’re affected by the climate. But the more we put it, the more we get back. We hope to export the chestnuts abroad someday, but first, we want to maintain the highest quality of the most supreme brand of chestnuts in Japan, so that more people will recognize the Iinuma Chestnut name.” (Mr. Higashizaki)
For those who have only eaten Mont Blanc chestnut cakes from a bakery, you should definitely try the Iinuma Chestnuts. The delicious taste is sure to change your overall image of chestnuts.
- Shimoiinuma Chestnut Growers Coop
- 1077 Shimoiinuma, Ibarakimachi, Higashi Ibaraki-gun, Ibaraki
- TEL 029-292-8561
- URL http://www.iinumakuri.com/