For over 60 years, Jōji Sera, the namesake of George’s Sun-Dried Rice, has been farming in Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture. His farm is small and like most farmers in Hiroshima, what he produces is consumed in the local market. Farming is Jōji’s lifelong passion and for every day of his life as a farmer, he has kept a journal to better understand how to address soil, temperature, rainfall, and myriad other variables, so he can harvest the best rice possible at the end of every season. For small-scale farmers, the reactions of consumers are a precious reward for the labor they invest in their crops, and for Jōji they have been the motivation for a life of farming.
Rice must be dried after it is harvested, and Jōji dries his by hanging rice stalks, one bunch at a time, on wooden frames, where sunshine and wind from the nearby mountains remove the excess moisture. Sun-drying is said to result in a more even distribution of moisture content in rice grains and to produce higher levels of umami for better aroma and flavor. Despite that sun-dried rice is appreciated for its superior taste, however, the work to produce it is performed manually and requires ongoing attention to the condition of the rice and the weather during the drying period. Most rice, therefore, is simply taken to a mechanical dryer which completes the process in no time, even as that prevents the rice from attaining its peak flavor. Avoiding such shortcuts, Jōji takes the time and makes the effort he knows from many years of experience is necessary to produce the rice his customers have come to look forward to year after year, for over six decades.
Text by Kitchennippon