The fresh seafood, meat, fruit and vegetable markets in Kitahiroshima Co-op are a hit with the local chefs and home cooks alike. Even people who leave Hokkaido would come back here for the fresh produce and the friendly banter and advice.
Surrounded by farms and with verdant mountains in the distance, fresh produce is never far away, and the local calendar revolves around the seasonal harvests.
Mrs Watanabe and her friends tell me that their recipe book is like a revolving file, starting in January and February with giant crabs and codfish, while in March and April it is a delight to try hairy crabs and mountain herbs. It is said that some of the best seafood is where the warm Kuroshio and the colder Oyashio currents meet, and with Hokkaido Island being surrounded by different seafood on every side, it is like the best fish come to you for your delight and pleasure.
In May and June it is time to try asparagus, sea urchin and scallops, while in July and August corn, pumpkin, melon and other summer vegetables are harvested from the fields. September is for salmon and potatoes. If you can’t get here until October, it is still potato harvest time, along with onions. For those waiting for seafood, your patience is rewarded in November and December. The fresh air and its isolation from the industrial centers ensure a year round supply of the purest water, perfect for making craft beer or other local brews.
Hokkaido is also famous for its fresh dairy products, butter, milk and cheese, and fortunately for the sweet tooth the patisseieres and cake makers work all year round to make the most of the milk products.
We haven’t even started talking about the fruit in season, from blueberries to strawberries and the best apples across the waterway in Aomori Prefecture.
The Kitahiroshima Co-op Markets are conveniently located between New Chitose Airport and downtown Sapporo, with the Kitahiroshima Classe Hotel Resort offering walk on recreational skiing in winter and golf or tennis in summer, plus a large onsen type spa facilities. Just one express train stop away is Shin Sapporo, home to the Emisia Sapporo Hotel.
The Co-op markets are a great place to stop by in pick up some fresh food and groceries between the airport and the ski or nature resorts in Niseko or other parts of Hokkaido. There is free parking and many of the shops are open from 10am to 10pm, so even if you are coming on a late flight you may have time to stop by.