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Sweetest before dawn: Central Japan farmers rise early to harvest sugar-packed corn

Corn is seen being harvested in the dark before sunrise in Hekinan, Aichi Prefecture, on June 9, 2021. (Mainichi/Motoyori Arakawa)

HEKINAN, Aichi -- Farmers in this central Japan city are getting up extra early to harvest their local specialty corn before dawn, when the sugars stored in the crop bring it to its sweetest.

    The city of Hekinan's "Mirai" breed of corn is known for its high sugar content and grain skin so soft it can be eaten raw. To bring customers that precious sweetness that is produced by photosynthesis in the day and culminates in the wee hours of night, local farmers wear headlamps as they harvest the maize ahead of sunrise.

    Seventeen of the city's farmers grow Mirai breed corn across a total of 20 hectares of cornfields. On June 9 at a field near the mouth of the Yahagi River, Minoru Hasebe, 64, and his sons Takahiro, 31, and Shogo, 24, began picking ears of corn one by one at around 3 a.m. Hasebe said, "It's tough because it's early in the morning, but we have customers waiting for this sweet corn."

    The harvest will last until mid-July; the corn is shipped to local stores handling farm-fresh produce, as well as major retailers and markets in central Japan.

    Additionally, Mirai corn is sold in batches of 15 ears, weighing 5 kilograms, for 2,500 yen (about $23). The cost includes tax but excludes shipping, and the product can be found at JA Aichichuo's online shop Hekikaisodachi: https://hekikaisodachi.com.

    (Japanese original by Motoyori Arakawa, Nagoya News Center)

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