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Natural refrigeration by snow power

The region along the western side of Honshu and Hokkaido in Japan with an incredible amount of snowfall is called “snow country”. Ranked among the world’s snowiest cities, Akita, Aomori, Sapporo and Toyama are routinely blanketed by 2-4 meters of snow in an annual whiteout that typically lasts for three months.

People there have to feed themselves through the long, harsh winter months. One of the traditional storage methods is natural refrigeration using the power of snow called yukimuro (snow room or snow house), a wisdom from ancestors in snow country.

People have long stored summer vegetables inside the snow rooms. Snow placed in the snow room doesn’t melt even in the summer. The secret is maintaining a humidity rate of more than 90 percent, and temperatures that stay around freezing. Temperatures in refrigerators fluctuate and cause food cells to go bad over time. In contrast, temperatures in snow rooms are stable with influence by neither light nor dryness. Taste is improved with freshness maintained, and researchers think this is why food becomes even tastier as time passes.

Fruits and vegetables like apples, carrots and radishes, and other root vegetables are placed into plastic bags and crates and either buried under mounds of snow or kept in a snow-filled storehouse. Some farmers allow their vegetables to be covered by snow while still in the fields rather than harvesting them. As a result, snow produce tends to be crisper in texture and sweeter in taste and their aroma less earthy. Rice and vegetables is sweetened by saccharification, and meat becomes a high quality aged meat with less drip. In these days, Snow Room products are becoming new business opportunities in Japan’s snow country. (Floro Mercene)