Pineapples and Black Beans!
Many years ago (actually the 1980’s) I was living in Ecuador, South America. I had the opportunity to visit a town called, ‘Milagro’ (meaning ‘Miracle’ in English). It is known as ‘the sweetest town in Ecuador’ because the main produce is pineapples and sugar cane. The pineapples are extremely delicious and SO sweet. I had heard the story of the ‘miraculous’ pineapples before I visited and I wasn’t disappointed. They were amazing.
So, what’s the connection with black beans? Ten years ago I was fortunate to move to my present location, a city in Hyogo, Japan called ‘Tamba Sasayama’ (meaning ‘ bamboo mountain’). It is famous for black beans, a type of soy bean. Although, at first hearing that might not sound as attractive as ‘sweetest pineapples’. But until you try them you won’t know!
It takes the unique climate of sunny days, cool nights, the fresh mountain water that irrigates the area, the soil, and many other contributing factors to making these special beans.
The beans are delicious by themselves, but they are also used as a base in many other things from ‘black bean coffee’ to ‘black bean ice-cream’, as well as many more traditional savory dishes famous to the area.
The harvesting periods for the beans is from the beginning to the middle of October. During this time the usually quiet town is subject to kilometers of traffic jams as people come from near and far to get their green soybeans fresh from the fields, from where many of them are sold. The beans still in the fields are then left to ripen into the black soy beans, these are harvested in December, some being used as part of the traditional Japanese New Year meal called, ‘Osechi’.
Tamba Sasayama itself is a very historical city with many unique features and a fascinating culture. If you are thinking of visiting Japan then Sasayama is a must on your itinerary. It lies seventy minutes by express train into the countryside of Hyogo prefecture from JR Osaka station.