As part of Tohoku University's extensive community outreach, the Kawatabi Field Center hosts several activities each year, giving participants a chance to learn more about nature and some of the research currently being done by the Graduate School of Agricultural Science.
In early July, the centre held two jam-making workshops for about 50 people. The workshops included fruit picking at the center's blueberry orchard and rhubarb patch, jam and butter making, as well as useful tips on how to cook with rhubarb.
"I had so much fun today. I really love being in nature, and the blueberries that I picked myself tasted so fresh and delicious," said Ishiko Irokawa, a workshop participant. "The staff here are friendly and helpful, so the atmosphere is really nice."
"We usually buy our fruits in the supermarket, so it's a different experience picking our own," said Minako Izaki who had attended two previous workshops.
"A lot of the jam you see in the shops contain fruit from other countries. Our blueberry jam is made with blueberries grown exclusively in Miyagi, which is quite rare," said Kayo Takahashi, a technical staff at the center who has been in charge of the blueberries for more than a decade. "The blueberries grown here are completely natural too. We don't use chemicals like pesticides or herbicides on them, so they are even more healthy and nutritious."
The center grows about 500kg of blueberries each year, two-thirds of which goes into jam that is sold at all Tohoku University campuses and selected branches of Co-Op supermarket.
Local resident Michiko Chiba grows her own blueberry trees and has been making jam for years. She attends sessions at the field center when she can, to learn new recipes and exchange ideas with the other participants.
"The rhubarb experience today was amazing, but the most fun was learning to make the food," she said. "I love cooking so I'm always interested to see what the staff will do with the blueberries and rhubarb."
According to center staff Takuya Nakayama, who takes care of the rhubarb patch, the best way to enjoy rhubarb is to chew the stems for juice, or chop them up and sprinkled them over a salad.
Run by the Graduate School of Agricultural Science, the Kawatabi Field Center is located near the famous Naruko Onsen in Osaki City, a couple of hours away from Sendai. It is a training facility for young researchers to grow rice and vegetables for research and practical experience.
In addition to fruit picking and jam making workshops, the center is well known for hosting nature walks in the spring and autumn, guided by trained staff and professors who can explain the local fauna and flora.
Contact:Kawatabi Field Center,
Graduate School of Agricultural Science