Friday, February 13, 2015

Tsukuihama Tourist Farm ~ Strawberry picking

Last week the kids and I met our friend, Junko-san, and a few of her friends for a strawberry picking adventure!  Junko-san teaches English classes throughout the week, and on Fridays she teaches a group of 3 year olds.  They have been talking about fruits lately and asked if we would tag along on a trip to pick and eat strawberries.  Yay! 

Not exactly a strawberry, but the road from Tsukuihama Station to the strawberry farm is lined with fields and gardens, some of them private, some of them shared gardens.  The kids thought the water drops on this cabbage was "Soooo coooooollll".

 A little background info on these strawberry farms...they are grown in greenhouses, which is why we get amazing strawberries around here from December through about April.  When you go to the farm, you find the main office, pay, and then are assigned a greenhouse number.  You go to your specific greenhouse and then you are given a little plastic plate with a round indent full of yummy condensed cream, and a square indent for the strawberry tops.  You have a set time (in this case, thirty minutes) to eat as many strawberries as you like.  The price for strawberry picking goes up or down depending on the time you go picking.  I think January is the most expensive month, with the prices dropping slightly for each month after that.

In March of last year, Kris, the kids and I all hiked out here to pick and eat strawberries.  We had fun that day (even though we got lost), and filled ourselves with strawberries.  We left thinking, cool trip but the strawberries certainly weren't worth the $60 we paid for them.

What I didn't realize is how much the taste of the berries vary between just a couple weeks!

Fast forward to this year...and my first thought when I saw the price at the main office was:  there is NO WAY these two little kids and I will eat $45 worth in ichigo (strawberry).  But, we bought our tickets and made our way to greenhouse #8 with the rest of our group.  When we got to the house, some parents decided to take their kids to the restroom before heading in (once you go in, you can't come out and then go back in).  I saw the port-a-potty and said, "No thanks, we'll wait".

Once everyone was ready, we walked on in and started chowing down.  OH MY GOODNESS!!!!!  I can't even tell you how amazing these strawberries were!  I will say, when we left this year I didn't at all feel like we paid enough for the berries we ate!  They were AMAAAAZING!!!!  Every single ichigo we picked was huge!  And sweet!  And juicy!  And just gosh darn DE-LICIOUS!!!!

See the tall green weed-looking things behind Mackenzie?  We couldn't figure out what they were.  After having a yard full of green onions in Mississippi, that's what I immediately thought they were.  Turns out, they are actually garlic plants. The garlic helps keep the bugs away from the houses.

Look at that big ole, juicy, akai (red) ichigo!!  Oishii! (delicious!)  

A bee-box, to help with the growing

We actually didn't even make it to the 30 minute mark before we weren't able to eat any more.  We definitely got our vitamin C for the day, shoot, maybe even the week!

After strawberry picking, we headed over to a little park.  It was just down the Ichigo-Mikan road (a little path with strawberries and tangerines painted on the fence).  The park was a little open area with a stream that ran along the edge.  All the kids ran around for a bit, getting some of the sugar out of their system, hopefully!

It's hard to see in this picture, but we were able to walk to one side of the greenhouse and check out the strawberry plants' roots.  A science lesson on a strawberry adventure!

From here, we walked back to Junko's house.  On the way the moms started to make another port-a-potty trip and I thought, well, maybe we should do this now before we walk 20 minutes to Junko's.  So, off we went.  Okay, I must say, this was the nicest port-a-potty I have ever seen!  It was definitely MUCH nicer than many restrooms I've been in States-side!  It was clean.  It didn't smell.  It had actual toilet paper.  WOW!
Once we were at Junko's we settled in for a yummy lunch!  Junko planned on teaching the two American moms how to make norimaki.  I tried to get my kids to help, but they decided to be very shy.  Garytt agreed to at least sit by me and watch.  What happened was:  Junko showed us all the steps, then Boy instructed me on what to do.  My first try was a success...well, with a little help in the final roll from Junko.  I think my problem was too much rice.  But, it rolled and it stayed.  :)  Garytt tasted it, and said he liked it.  Mackenzie wouldn't even consider tasting it...she was too busy reading books to the little ones.  What a filling lunch!  Norimaki, miso, fried chicken, yaki-imo (roasted sweet potato), cookies, candies, YUM-O!  

Our group picture:

We had so much fun hanging out with our Japanese hosts!  Garytt asked all kinds of questions about language:  how to say red in Japanese, how to say Sunday, how to say strawberry, etc.  I'm afraid he talked all the ladies' ears off!  :)  I didn't get a picture of it, but there was a toy at Junko's that one little boy was trying to play with, it's a musical instrument drum-type thing.  Without a word said between them, Garytt showed him how to play the instrument through several well choreographed hand motions.  Proud Mama moment!

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