Harvesting snow apples and a unique way to preserve apples under the snow in Japan

Asahi-machi’s bagless Fuji apple (a Fuji grown without wrapping bags, characterised by its high sugar content and high acidity) has gained recognition in recent years, but have you ever heard about the ‘snow apple”?
‌Actually, the ”snow apple” is the apple that has been preserved over winter by burying the bagless Fuji apples in snow, which our consumers have told us are the best tasting apples in Japan.
Apples are mostly cultivated by manual labor over the span of a year. From the end of January through March, Nagano still in deep snow. Regardless of the frost, work must begin; training and pruning allows each tree to get sunlight to its branches. This task requires the most professional technique. A common saying in Nagano is, “If you don’t prune 1,000 trees, you won’t become an adult”.
After that, many processes continue: pollination using hornfaced bees, thinning out undersized fruits to make growing room for others, clipping leaves, and turning the ripening fruits so they get sunshine. Generally, it’s estimated that it takes approximately 223 hours for 10 acres. Each farmer’s labor and high-quality techniques grow the delicious apples that Nagano is renowned for.
Apple-pickers in Ueda City in Nagano started selling these snow apples around 2009. About 15,000 apples are harvested between late November and early December and placed in crates on the Sugadai Plateau in the city. Snow can reach as high as 4 meters (13 ft) on the plateau, and the crates of apples are buried underneath it until March. They’re then dug out and sold as “snow apples.”
The local agricultural association says that the snow keeps the apples at an optimum refrigeration level at around zero degrees Celsius (32°F) and humidity levels above 90 percent. This “natural refrigerator” makes the apples extra juicy with a crisp bite. People also say these apples have a much sweeter taste than regular apples.
Only selected apples from Asahi-machi apples, which account for less than 1% of the national shipment, become snow apples. Their rarity, combined with the freshness and taste of apples preserved for a long time in the snow, caused a huge panic in the local area when long queues formed on the first day of sales in mid-April, with people waiting up to three hours to purchase them, and even causing heavy traffic jams.
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