In November 2017 I visited the Tsuruda Farm in Ashikita-machi and talked with the owner and his wife and Mrs. Morita who uses flowers from mikan trees as ingredients for natural cosmetics. Following is a summary:
Mr. Shiro Tsuruda, President Maruta Co., Ltd. and his wife (Farm owner).
In our home, where jam is a necessity, it is customary to make marmalade with sweet summer mikan (sweet variety of Watson pomelo) around April and May every year, using the Setouchi product.
In 1949, the father of Mr. Tsuruda introduced this sweet summer mandarin and promoted it among the local communities which were old villages at that time. This project turned out to be very successful, and many farmers started producing this type of citrus fruits. I have visited in late November the Tsuruda Organic Farm in Ashikita-machi, Ashikita-gun, Kumamoto prefecture.
Ashikita-machi is close to the Yatsushiro Sea and can be reached by the “Orange” railroad.
From the Orange railroad the Yatsushiro Sea can be seen from the window.
Mandarin orchard spreading over the slope of the mountain.
Tanoura, sandwiched between the mountains and the sea, was one of the poorest villages in Kumamoto prefecture because of the small area of agricultural land. The fortune of the village changed with mandarin orchards. One tree can produce mikan worth 10,000 Yen, and the annual sales is estimated at 4.2 billion Yen.
During summer new trees are planted on the hills.
Looking at the sea from Tsuruda Mikan orchard spreading in the mountains.
Formation of Tsuruda Organic Farm
The Tsuruda family, whose history can be traced back to the early Edo period, began cultivating citrus fruits in 1897. In 1868, the owner planted lemon, navel orange and grapefruit trees for the first time in Japan.
Efforts to cultivate “organic”, started in 1954 on some parts of the land and were increased in the following decades. Finally, the owner stopped using any chemical fertilizer and herbicides for the purpose of making the best use of soil microorganisms. He developed natural fertilizer and compost, and also promoted it among organic farmers throughout the country. The Tsuruda Organic Farm Co., Ltd. Was established in 1994.
Thanks to soil microorganisms in organic JAS certified orchards, the trees produce delicious fruit.
The Tsuruda Organic Farm, with a total area of about 14 hectares, produces several kinds of citrus fruits and also develops new varieties. This hard and time-consuming work brings good results and satisfactory income.
The green lemon (right) seem to suit Japanese food.
At the end of the Mikan mountain tour, we enjoyed fragrant tea with green lemon peel.
Collecting flowers of sweet summer mikan for essential oil
In the season when the flowers bloom in May, many flowers are collected and used as ingredients for natural cosmetics. As a result, the yield of fruits is higher.
Mrs. Keiko Morita of Kumamoto prefecture started a business with natural cosmetics using the flowers from summer orange trees for essential oil (Neroli) and as ingredients for high-quality skincare products. The Tsurudas were pleased with the success of this unexpected application which has a good potential for new business.
This article is based on the Japanese report by Mitsuyo Nakamura who visited the farm..