Lemons Defy the Cold in Clever 'Snow Country' Greenhouses

A fruit grower in Yamagata is now harvesting 'Snow Country lemons' grown in a unique and highly efficient greenhouse without agricultural chemicals.

このページを 日本語 で読む

The harvesting of yukiguni, or 'Snow Country,' lemons grown in greenhouses in Yamagata Prefecture has begun again in 2023. One of the fruit farmers is Hiroaki Ishioka, age 62.

"We will likely have 850 lemons to harvest, which is significantly more than last year," Ishioka reports with a smile.

Providing Chemical-Free Lemons to Cancer Sufferers

Most years, snow nearly a meter deep covers the ground outside Ishioka's greenhouse. But this year, there is only the scattered remains of a December snowfall. While the temperature outside hovers around freezing, inside the greenhouse it's a comfortable 12-13 degrees Celsius.

Ishioka explains, "In Yamagata Prefecture, temperatures vary by more than 10 degrees Celcius on over 100 days each year. These temperature extremes are what make it possible for us to produce such delicious fruit."

It was eight years ago that Ishioka decided to turn the cold and snowy weather in Yamagata to his advantage. He began producing lemons that generally grow in milder climates.

His motivation was to respond to cancer sufferers who sought lemons grown without pesticides.

Highly-Efficient Greenhouses

Ishioka found a cold-hardy variety of Meyer lemon. To protect the trees from the cold outside air, he grows them in a unique and highly heat-retaining structure. The greenhouse is covered by two layers of vinyl, which are separated to create a layer of air to keep the heat in.

'Snow Country lemons' grow well in the double-layer greenhouse at a temperature over 10 degrees Celsius higher than the outside air temperature (© Sankei by Kozo Kashiwazaki).

Ishioka's efforts have paid off. After moving to the suburbs of Yamagata City, he transplanted the lemon trees from pots into the ground. Protected from the cold in 90 cm square plots that are sectioned off with Styrofoam, the trees have grown thicker trunks.

"The trees have adapted well to the environment. This year, some trees have produced more than 70 lemons each. Futuristically, we could conceivably produce over 5,000 lemons in this greenhouse alone," Ishioka adds confidently.

'Snow Country lemons' are characterized by their sour yet mild taste. They are not so bitter, and even the peel can be eaten.

"They are great for lemonade and when mixed with honey, they make a spectacular honey-lemon drink," says Ishioka.

The lemons can be purchased at some supermarkets in Yamagata, as well as online. Ishioka has reportedly had numerous inquiries from hotels, inns, and restaurants.

このページを 日本語 で読む