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Spring Wheat and Autumn Wheat

Fields of wheat and the clouds slipping by

 

When you think of scenery that is characteristic of Biei in July, what springs to mind?

“Lavender!”

Well… I suppose… Yes, “lavender” is an acceptable answer, I guess, but if we're talking about images of Biei's patchwork hills covered with colour then really it should be “wheat”.

Wheat is the crop that most widely covers Biei's planted areas. In other words, wheat is the most-planted crop and is the central player in colouring the patchwork hills.

The wheat is the greenest of greens until June, but when we get into July it slowly starts to turn yellow. When the wheat changes colour it contrasts vividly with the greens of potato and sugar beet fields and the multi-coloured patchwork hills start to stretch out across the land.

A perfectly clear blue sky, a fresh breeze stirring the land and the clouds slipping by.

Below, a wheat field swaying in the wind like a great ocean…

Forget all about time. Forget all about your daily life.

Why not ignore everything for a while and come and take in this beautiful landscape?

 A wheat field in June of the deepest green

 

In July, the same field turns yellow

Wheat Fields Sparkling at Sunset

Depending on the variety of wheat, there are types with long whiskers and short whiskers on the ears. Should you happen upon a field growing the type with long whiskers, then we strongly recommend that you take a look at it at sunset.

When the part of the wheat with the long whiskers is caught in the evening sun, you can see it seeming to shine with a sparkling golden light. Such a sight is almost as if the entire surface of the world is a golden meadow expanding before you.

With each time you see it, it calls to mind a scene from that famous film “So-and-So in the Valley of the Winds” where the main character walks atop golden plains.

We don't really have any pictures that can capture it, but it is best seen with your own eyes. Please come and see the real “golden plains” for yourself!

The long-whiskered kind of wheat catches the wind easily so you may also see wheat fields full of waves!

 

"Spring Children and Autumn Children"?

Most crops are sown in the spring and harvested in the autumn, right?

Well, here in Hokkaido, the trend in wheat cultivation is to sow the seeds in the autumn, known as “autumn-sown wheat”.

Hokkaido wheat accounts for some 70% of all of Japan's wheat production output and of that 70%, 90% of it is “autumn-sown wheat”.

Some good examples of Japanese autumn wheat are the “Kitahonami”, “Yumechikara” and “Kitanokaori” varieties. The most-planted of these is “Kitahonami” which makes up about 75% of the autumn wheat grown in Hokkaido and is usually manufactured into an all-purpose flour used in udon noodles and cakes.

The “Yumechikara” variety, which has recently become popular, is very high in gluten and is used in very strong bread flour to make bread with a springy texture. Long whiskers and a slight reddish tint to the ears is characteristic of this variety of wheat.

Of course, there are also varieties of wheat sown in spring, too.

The most planted spring-sowing variety, “Haruyokoi”, is also used in strong bread flour and it has gained quite a reputation in the midst of Japan's “bread boom”.
In the area around our town, we call wheat sown in spring “Spring Children” and the kind sown in autumn, “Autumn Children”.

Perhaps now you too will be able to say to yourself “Oh, these are autumn children,” just from a single glance at the wheat fields!

The green wheat on the left is spring wheat and the yellow wheat on the right is autumn wheat. Autumn wheat grows first and therefore it turns yellow first.