FEATURE: Rare 'mugi mochi' made from wheat flour revived in Shikoku.MATSUYAMA, Japan, Sept. 1 Kyodo
(EDS (Electronic Data Systems, Plano, TX, www.eds.com) Founded in 1962 by H. Ross Perot (independent candidate for the President of the U.S. in 1992), EDS is the largest outsourcing and data processing services organization in the country. : THIS IS THE THIRD OF FOUR FEATURE STORIES ON LOCAL RESIDENTS WHO UTILIZED THEIR WISDOM TO ADD A NEW VALUE TO FARM PRODUCTS AS A MEANS OF LIVING IN THE CURRENT ERA OF DEPOPULATION DEPOPULATION. In its most proper signification, is the destruction of the people of a country or place. This word is, however, taken rather in a passive than an active one; we say depopulation, to designate a diminution of inhabitants, arising either from violent causes, or the want of IN RURAL AREAS OF JAPAN ON SHIKOKU ISLAND)
Hidenori Maki is credited with reviving ''mugi mochi,'' a variation of the rice cake that many Japanese traditionally eat on New Year's Day New Year's Day, among ancient peoples the first day of the year frequently corresponded to the vernal or autumnal equinox, or to the summer or winter solstice. In the Middle Ages it was celebrated among Christians usually on Mar. 25. .
Mugi mochi made from a rare wheat grown only in mountain areas and on islands of the Inland Sea disappeared in the postwar years when grain farmers switched to growing ''mikan'' tangerines as a means of earning cash quickly.
Japanese households used to make mochi by pounding steamed rice in a mortar. Mugi mochi was produced similarly and had a unique taste.
The wheat for mugi mochi contained 10 times the amount of dietary fiber dietary fiber
Coarse, indigestible plant matter, consisting primarily of polysaccharides, that when eaten stimulates intestinal peristalsis. than polished rice does as well as a good deal polyphenol polyphenol
Any of various alcohols containing two or more benzene rings that each have at least one hydroxyl group (OH) attached. Many polyphenols occur naturally in plants and some kinds, such as the flavonoids and tannins, are believed to be beneficial , which is said to whiten the skin. It was called ''phantom wheat'' because it only grew in the Inland Sea areas.
Maki, president of agricultural production company ''J Wing Farm'' in Touon city, Ehime Prefecture, revived the grain for use in mugi mochi. He first heard of it about 17 years ago when an elderly person in his neighborhood described what a treat it used to be in a place where rice did not grow. Local residents used to make steamed balls out of wheat flour for New Year instead of rice cakes.
Around the same time that he had heard the anecdote, Maki learned that an acquaintance of his working as an agricultural researcher was developing improved strains of wheat. Maki tested the samples and thought they were tasty.
He obtained some for cultivation and after some initial difficulty succeeded in growing crops. He attempted to sell the grain to local businesses, but none showed any interest, so he turned to food production companies.
He successfully met with a company in Mie Prefecture that was searching for ingredients for a new type of rice cracker. Maki's steady sales activities started to pay off and the wheat became more and more popular.
The grain is now also used in ''udon'' noodles and cookies.
Maki founded his present company in 1993. Declaring he would protect cropland, he leased lots from about 200 elderly people who no longer were able to farm it themselves.
Maki believes mochi mugi wheat is a farm product deeply rooted in the local Inland Sea areas. ''I'd like to grow crops that are suited to the land,'' he said.