When talking about the pickles made in Tsuruoka, we cannot go without mentioning Atsumi turnips, which have nice crunchiness and a vivid purple color. It is one of the “indigenous crops” that have been carefully preserved by farmers since the Edo Period (1603-1868) in limited areas of Tsuruoka City. We interviewed Mr. Shigeru Sasaki, president of the Producers’ Association of Atsumi Turnips Made in Hitokasumi Area, who takes a main role in their efforts to produce process and establish the brand Atsumi turnips with the whole Hitokasumi community in the Atsumi area.
Traditional Yakihata Agriculture Handed down in Hitokasumi
Hitokasumi is an area in the middle of the mountains in the center of the Atsumi area, with a population of 87 in the 26 households, as of the end of March 2014. The cultivation of Atsumi turnips using the traditional technique of yakihata agriculture (literally, the agriculture of burning down the field) has more than 400 years of history.
The processing plant was established in 1984, along with the infrastructure development in the Hitokasumi area to offer opportunities for a wide range of people to try the local specialty, Atsumi turnips, and to provide a workplace within the area during winter. The region focused on agriculture and forestry, and has been required to change their ways to engage in primary industry over time. The Hitokasumi area has also faced the issues of successors and preservation techniques to conserve yakihata agriculture, and the community as a whole has been striving to find solutions to such issues, according to Mr. Sasaki.
Turnips Pickled in Sweetened Vinegar Currently Available as a Result of Trial and Error
Pickled Atsumi turnips from Hitokasumi, available also at local food fairs held at department stores, are very popular as a taste of home, and receive orders from around the country. The current pickling method, however, was established around 20 years ago, after repeated trials and errors. In Hitokasumi, Atsumi turnips are pickled only with vinegar, sugar and salt, without any preservatives. The pickling method adopted during the first decade after the plant was established was the so called “one-time pickl