“Waguri”, 1 of World’s 4 Biggest Chestnuts: Finest “Tanbaguri” From Harvest to Market
The chestnut is one of autumn’s coveted tastes in Japan, and it is in season now. The Japanese chestnut, called as “waguri”, is one of the four biggest chestnuts in the world, and its size stands out compared to chestnuts produced in Asia and Europe. We are introducing characteristics of waguri this time, and first of all, let’s start with the size comparison to see how big they are.
The Size of Tanbaguri
The picture above shows the big Tanbaguri, produced in Tanba Sasayama area of Hyogo Prefecture. The chestnut in the center is “Shibaguri”, a wild chestnut species in Japan that grow naturally in the fields and mountains. Shibaguri has been eaten by Japanese people since the Jomon Period (approximately 131 ~ 4 centuries, B.C.). This comparison should convince you how big Tanbaguri is!
If I may add, the chestnut on the left is a leading variety of Tanbaguri, named “Gin yose” and it has a unique shape resembling Fava beans. This size of this particular chestnut is 4L according to a Japanese classification to be explained in detail later, and its width is as much as 5 cm, weighing over 40g a piece.
Now we are turning to our report on the process from chestnut harvest to shipment.
These flowers get pollinated, bur start to grow the prickly needles in the summer, and they will become familiar shapes of chestnuts.
This is a harvest scene in a chestnut orchard. This orchard is relatively large with more than 300 chestnut trees. Many kindergartens and elementary schools in Japan select chestnut picking as school excursions and the chestnut is a familiar existence in Japanese people’s daily lives.
According to our research, almost every prefecture in Japan other than Okinawa has tourist farms that offer chestnut picking. The harvest time is in the autumn, from September to October, and you can experience picking up chestnuts with tongs. If you are interested, please give it a try.
A small pickup truck was filled in about an hour. The next process is to separate the bur from the fruit. It is too painful to touch the bur and you cannot engage in this process unless you are wearing specially coated gloves.
According to the nationwide chestnut classification in Japan, L size is 3.2~3.5cm, 2L size is 3.5~3.9cm, and 3L size is 3.9~4.4cm. 4L size is at least 4.5cm, and it appears to be for Tanbaguri, which is famous for its outstanding size.
If a chestnut falls through this net, it must be less than 2L size.
If a chestnut stays over the net, then it is 3L size or bigger.
Tanbaguri on the left side of the photo is 3L and the right side, 2L. The 2L size is sold at about 2200 yen for 1kg, and if the size is 3L or bigger, the price goes up as much as 4000 yen. It is indeed the highest grade product.
The chestnut is sterilized by soaking in hot water at 50 degree Celsius for 30 minutes, then polished, and sold like this.
We have introduced the process before the impressive Tanbaguri are brought and arranged at the store front. In traditional Japanese New-Year cooking, “Osechi ryouri”, “Kuri kinton (candied chestnuts with sweet potatoes)” is prepared using “Kuri no kanroni (chestnut compote)”. Even though big chestnuts are a little bit pricy, they look plump and delicious, and New Year is the time of celebration. Thus big chestnuts are always popular.
Postscript: How to Make Chestnuts Sweeter to Eat
When you go chestnut picking and manage to obtain many chestnuts during your long-term stay in Japan, we would suggest to divide them into two groups; one for eating soon and the other for some days later. If you keep them in the fridge at 0 degree Celsius for 30~50 days, the chestnuts will become much sweeter.
In my personal experience, when storage goes over 50 days, the sweetness and freshness decreases. At that point, please eat them or switch to freezing. In order to cook frozen chestnut deliciously, it is important to put them in water and bring to a boil without thawing them first.