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A traditional food ingredient with a wide range of colors, shapes, and sizes

Also known as saito, or vegetable beans, ingenmame beans come in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. About 90% of Japan’s domestically grown ingenmame beans come from Hokkaido.
The majority of the ingenmame beans produced in Japan consist of the Kintoki and Tebou varieties. Each variety is used in different foods based on their flavor and characteristics. For example, Kintoki are large sized beans that have a slick texture with a distinctively robust flavor, which are best savored as cooked beans or dessert beans. The Tebou variety is great for making white sweet bean paste.
Pre-cooking preparation of ingenmame includes soaking the beans in water overnight to allow them to absorb as much water as possible. They are then cooked slowly over low heat for a fluffy, soft consistency.

Map

While the Tokachi area is the main producing region of ingenmame beans, Kenbuchi Town in Kamikawa area is also a major grower. The number one producer, the village of Sarabetsu, harvests nearly twice as much crop, at 2,560 tons, compared to Honbetsu Town that ranks second in production.

 

■ Map / Main producing municipalities

Sarabetsu Village, Urahoro Town, Toyokoro Town, Honbetsu Town, Obihiro City, Ikeda Town, Otofuke Town, Shihoro Town, Kenbuchi Town, Ashoro Town

Contributing to crop rotation even in a cold climate

In the pioneer days in the late 19th century, a breed of ingenmame beans that can grow despite cold weather was brought to Hokkaido from the Western world. There was a temporary pause in crop cultivation due to the Second World War. However, shortly after the war, the demand for ingenmamae beans grew higher as they were needed in making cooked beans, dessert beans, and sweet bean pastes. As such, the production volume and crop acreage also grew. Currently, the production volume is lower than what was before due to a shift in culinary culture and increased imported foods. Nonetheless, Hokkaido’s vast agriculture lands and dry climate are still well utilized in raising many varieties of high quality beans.
Ingenmame beans are considered an essential part of a crop rotation for a field that grows different crops throughout a year such as wheat, sugar beet, and potatoes.

Ingenmame Beans Family

  • Kintoki
    Kintoki are a large azuki bean with a shiny, reddish-purple color. Taisho Kintoki is among the most known of this variety. As the beans have a robust flavor and their skin is resilient to breakage, they are the best for making cooked beans or dessert beans. Once the cooked beans are flavored with syrup, they become very sticky.
  • Tebou
    Tebou is a small bean with white skin, and is also known as white ingenmame along with other brands of white beans. The entire bean is white on the inside and out. For this reason, most Tebou beans are used in making Japanese style sweets after being processed as white bean paste. Tebou are rarely sold as dried beans in the markets.
  • Daifuku
    This variety of ingenmame bean is a beautiful white color throughout, from coat to core. Cultivation requires a great deal of labor, so it is known as a premium bean together with Tora and Hana ingenmame beans because of its high price. It is mainly produced in the vicinity around Lake Toya and is also used as an ingredient in local sweets.
  • Tora
    This variety of ingenmame bean has a white colored base and contrasting brownish yellow speckles. The name tora means tiger in Japanese and it was named this way because of its appearance. Tora beans are ideal for simmered dishes because they are easily cooked, soft and have a sticky texture.
  • Uzura
    Uzura ingenmame beans have a tubular shape and a light brown earthish color with a reddish-purple speckles. The name uzura was given to this bean because it resembles the shape of a quail's egg. This variety of beans is made into simmered beans and also sweet natto.

Seasons

Although the timing differs based on the variety, most ingenmame beans are planted from mid May to early June and when they flower between mid July and mid August farmers take particular care to remove pests that can cause disease. The harvest lasts from September to October and beans are shipped after threshing and drying.

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Processed Foods

Simmered beans and sweet natto have long been a traditional food of Japan. Today, these favorites can be enjoyed in retort pouches or bagged candies. Generally ingenmame beans are used to make Japanese sweets, such as Tebou used in white bean paste manju or daifuku and yokan. Recently, ingenmame beans are being used in Western sweets as well, which has expanded their use. Daifuku ingenmame beans, considered a premium bean, are used to make white bean paste, which is an ingredient in famous treats made in the Lake Toya vicinity where they are grown.
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