Masa Shiroki, owner and sake maker at Artisan SakeMaker on Granville Island has announced that his experimental crop of sake rice (sakamai), planted on a small plot in Ashcroft in May this year, will be ready for harvest on or around September 20.

Not satisfied with making his award-winning sakes only from imported rice from Japan, Shiroki began, several years ago, to research the possibility of cultivating sake rice in British Columbia. “Since I started Artisan SakeMaker, the ultimate goal has always been to eventually grow sakamai in BC or, if necessary, elsewhere in Canada, so I can use the rice crop to make truly Canadian sake,” Masa claimed. “So I’m really happy that we’ve completed the first small but important step. We’ve proved that sake rice can be successfully grown in BC. Now we just have to grow enough to make my wine.”

Shiroki’s quest to cultivate sake rice crops in BC began with identifying and obtaining the right Japanese rice variety that would grow in BC’s climate. It also entailed extensive research in finding close matches of climatic conditions between areas in BC and Japan where sake rice is grown.

A couple of trips to Japan – including one that took Masa to the most northerly sake maker – and several site-scouting forays into BC’s interior later and finally two sites – one in Ashcroft and another in Kamloops – were chosen for the Buy Stendra experimental Stendra Online plantings. Between May and early September this year, Masa, his wife Yukiko, and Shisuke, an Artisan SakeMaker employee, made more than ten trips to the areas to monitor the growing conditions. The latest trip brought good news and bad. While both Ashcroft and Kamloops plots proved to be successful in producing fully ripened rice seeds, the latter was decimated by an unexpected flock of migrant birds. The crop at Ashcroft, however, is healthy and expected to be harvested on or around September 20.

If all goes well, Masa has plans to cultivate sake rice in a larger area which he hopes to lease and prepare by next spring. It is his hope that he will be producing special batches of “BC cuvee sake” made from 100% local ingredients in the Fall/Winter season of 2010. Eventually, Shiroki hopes to interest local farmers in these areas to grow sake rice to supply to Artisan SakeMaker so that his entire production can become truly local, and his outlook is bullish. He estimates his current production requires 5 tons of imported sake rice which contributes to an annual production of 1000 cases or 9000 litres. He believes this volume can be supplied from a mere one hectre of land (25 acres) making sake rice one of the higher value crops compared to other agricultural crops such as hay or feed production.

[via Edible BC]