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.
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
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.
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.