Friday, April 25, 2014

Tokyo Farmers Markets: Saturday, April 26th and Sunday, April 27th

Fresh veg from Kokobunji at the Roppongi Market!


May is nearly upon us, which means planting season is about to begin in earnest. Belly up to the farmers market table for some of the last of Winter's best and the first of what Spring has to offer. Don't forget, too, to check out the Earth Day Market in all their fun organic foodliness! See you there!

Sunday, April 27th
I could go wax on forever about how great this market is and how important it is for the future of Japanese farming and global food security. Instead, I'll just insist that folks go and see for themselves what great things the market and these innovative growers are doing. This month the market will be a bit of its wonderful normalness. If something exciting comes up, though, I promise to alert folks. Planning is in the works, so who knows what Fairtrade excitement might be in the air?
10am to 4pm, Rain or shine!

Every Saturday and Sunday
A massive weekend affair that is great fun and features a variety of fruits and vegetables and prepared products from all over Japan. Plus, there's a most excellent selection of food trucks offering everything from salad to zingy curry to roast chicken to falafel!
10am to 4pm

Every Saturday
Back up and running after a refurbishment of the market space, the Roppongi Farmers Market is as booming and bountiful as ever. Don't miss this chance to meet a grower from Tokyo's very own Kokobunji and sample seasonal bounty.
10am to 4pm (Usually. Do check their website for schedule fluctuations.)
Map

Yurakucho Farmer's Market
Every Saturday and Sunday
Smaller than the UNU Market, Yurakacho features a particular region of Japan each week along with an excellent selection of seasonal fruit and vegetables. Growers from nearby Chiba, Kamakura, and Saitama are also on hand to help fill the larder.
11am to 5pm
Directions: Turn left out of Yurakacho station and cross the courtyard toward Tokyo Kouku Keitan. Look for the fun under the overhang!

Know of a market? Give me a shout and we'll add it to the list!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Tokyo Farmers Markets: Saturday, April 19th and Sunday, April 20th

Cool carrots at the Ebisu Farmers Market.
Don't let a rainy Friday deter plans to head on out to the markets this weekend. Spring is wet, which is good for vegetables, so no complaining! Pack an umbrella just to be safe and venture out to find scrumptious seasonal fruit and vegetables including sansai (mountain vegetables), lovely greens, and more. There's always something wonderful to be found!

Ebisu Market
Sunday, April 20th
Don't miss the opportunity to head to a nifty part of the city where on these sweet Sundays you'll find farmers and producers galore. (One even comes from Okutama with a lovely array of vegetables and a vegetable-based spread that will knock your socks off.) It's worth noting, too, that Do One Good, an animal NPO will be on hand with some of the cutest dogs ever waiting to go home with you!
11am to 5pm
Map

Koenji Farmer's Market
Saturday, April 19th
A new market I spotted while riding the train on a Saturday morning into the city center. That circle of red awnings in front of the Za-Koenji Public Theatre could only mean one thing! Sure enough, I found a small group of area growers and producers, and the bounty surely continues!
11am - 5pm
Map

Nippori Farmer's Market
Saturday, April 19th and Sunday, April 20th
Another great market in the city found with a little help from friends, this one is sure to not disappoint. A small but lively market, particularly on Saturday, it is well worth the trip. Plus, Tohoku growers are on hand sharing their best-of-the-best, so come on out to be part of the recovery and get something good to eat.
No map, but just head out the east exit and look for the green awnings!
10am to 5pm

Every Saturday and Sunday
A massive weekend affair that is great fun and features a variety of fruits and vegetables and prepared products from all over Japan. Plus, there's a most excellent selection of food trucks offering everything from salad to zingy curry to roast chicken to falafel!
10am to 4pm

Every Saturday
Back up and running after a refurbishment of the market space, the Roppongi Farmers Market is as booming and bountiful as ever. Don't miss this chance to meet a grower from Tokyo's very own Kokobunji and sample seasonal bounty.
10am to 4pm (Usually. Do check their website for schedule fluctuations.)
Map

Yurakucho Farmer's Market
Every Saturday and Sunday
Smaller than the UNU Market, Yurakacho features a particular region of Japan each week along with an excellent selection of seasonal fruit and vegetables. Growers from nearby Chiba, Kamakura, and Saitama are also on hand to help fill the larder.
11am to 5pm
Directions: Turn left out of Yurakacho station and cross the courtyard toward Tokyo Kouku Keitan. Look for the fun under the overhang!

Know of a market? Give me a shout and we'll add it to the list!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

An Interview with Emma Cooper, Part 2

Today we continue our conversation with Emma Cooper, author and gardener, whose latest book, Jade Pearls and Alien Eyeballs, is due out on May 1st. Emma also graciously did a reading for us, which is another wonderful way to preview her work. You can also read my review. Enjoy! - JB



How did you do most of your research for the historical section? Was it part of your thesis work or other on-going research?

I wrote most of the book, including the historical section, before I went back to university to become an ethnobotanist. In 2009, Carolyn Fry brought out a lovely book in association with Kew, called The Plant Hunters, which is a potted history of plant hunting, and that was very useful for my research. It’s a topic of interest to me, so I’ve done a fair bit of reading on it!

I thought it was utterly fascinating to hear how plants wandered about. It reminded me of something Michael Pollan posits at the beginning of one of his books: did we choose the plant or did the plant choose us? (He was thinking of corn, of course.) It is an idea that stuck with me. What do you think makes these unusual edibles appealing but has kept them from becoming more popular?

This is a very interesting topic, and one I did learn more about during my dissertation research. It’s also a very complicated question. There is no simple answer. The chilli pepper, for example, was very easily adopted into cultures all over the world, and that may have been because its use as a spice was both familiar and highly prized at the time. The potato struggled, and that may have been because it was unfamiliar – the Europeans had no tuber crops at that time. The potato also suffered from associations with its poisonous relatives (although the chilli doesn’t seem to have), and got embroiled in religious arguments. Once it was adopted by the Irish it became a Catholic food, and was therefore not overly popular with the English Protestants.

The Europeans who found the New World and wanted to conquer it had an agenda, of course. They opposed any native foods (like quinoa) that had religious aspects to them, or which were particularly key to a society they were trying to dismantle. And there are still prejudices against ‘peasant’ foods. Vanilla, which was exalted by the Totonac people and demanded as tribute by the Aztecs, had a very different fate. It and chocolate, which was considered divine and used as currency, had no problem becoming popular in the wider world!

There have always been economic factors involved. Quite often new foods would be adopted by society’s elites, and then slowly filter down to the rest of the population as they became more widely available and therefore more affordable.

In Chapter 4 you write: "In short, there's a place for native plants in gardens, but it's not the veg patch." Could you elaborate on that a bit? For me, especially as I'm turning more and more towards permaculture, it seems there is plenty of room for native plants in the veg patch to, for example, support pollinators and stabilize soil. I was really shocked to read that and would like to hear more of your thoughts about that.

We may have different perspectives on this issue because we’re from different places. In the UK, it’s very hard to say what is and what isn’t a native plant. Even the ones that have been here for quite some time only arrived at the end of the last ice age. And we’re a long way from a biodiversity hot spot. We just don’t have the range of indigenous crops that you find in the Americas, for example.

The point I was trying to make in the book is that the native vs. non-native plants debate does not belong in the vegetable patch. Here in the UK, if you tried to grow a kitchen garden of native plants, you’d get pretty hungry. The research shows that non-native plants can be just as good for wildlife, and stabilize the soil and do all the things you want them to do. So my advice is to chose your plants on the basis of their utility, not their origin.

I was also surprised at the lack of photos. Was that just the pdf version?

No, you get the same book content in all of the different ebook formats, and there are no photos. There’s a real tendency these days for people to consume media in lieu of actually having an experience. We lap up cookery shows, but fewer and fewer of us bother to cook. We love nature documentaries, but rarely wander outside. We ooh and aah over photographs of lovely gardens, whilst sitting on a concrete patio and pruning the occasional shrub. Although I describe Jade Pearls and Alien Eyeballs as a kind of guide book to unusual plants, it doesn’t have glossy pictures of them because the whole point is to get people going out and finding them, growing them, eating them. I want to encourage curiosity and motivate people to have new experiences, not spoon-feed them everything and sate their appetite with images. It’s not a coffee-table book. It’s not eye candy. The books I loved most when I was a kid (and I was a real bookworm) were the ones with words, not pictures. They exercise your imagination.

How did you find your contributors?

I put out a call for contributors on the blog, way back in 2010. Some of them came via that, and I asked people I had already encountered on social media. Being immersed in the unusual edibles community, I was already familiar with the main players (on and offline), although it was nice to be able to feature some new faces.

What was the best part about working on this book for you?

The best part of working on the book was reading the stories that people sent in for inclusion. I have contributors from all over the world, and it was fascinating to learn what they considered to be unusual, the plants they were growing and the ways they were learning about new ones. You don’t get that in most gardening books, and even if you know these people on social media, those stories very often don’t come out (or you learn them very slowly).

Why did you decide to go the route of self-publishing? Your last book, The Peat-Free Diet, was also self-published. What's the appeal of that process for you? 

I imagine that there’s a rather niche audience of this book, and that I would have had trouble attracting the attention of a publisher for it. Self-publishing also allows me to stay in control of the process, and to write the kind of books that I want to write. I learn about the process every time I do it (and hopefully get better at it!), and it’s a far more personal journey.

That’s important for this book in particular, because it’s a very personal project. It didn’t start out that way, but because of the way my life went over the last few years, I had to shelve it more than once. At the beginning of this year I felt, very strongly, that I was in a position to finish it and to get it out to the people who might want to read it. I didn’t want it to be languishing on my hard drive for ever more.

And, in a very real sense, self-publishing is what I do. I produce a blog, and a podcast, and all of that I do by myself. Self-publishing a book just feels like an extension of that – a new journey.

Where can people find your book?

For the time being, the easiest place to find it is at Smashwords where you can read a preview of the book. From 1st May you’ll be able to buy a copy there, in whatever ebook format you like, as well. But the book will also be available from various ebook stores, including iTunes and it’s already available to pre-order in the Nook store.

What's your next project? 


There’s actually another complete book on my hard drive that nobody has seen, and I’d like to publish that in due course. And I’d like to do an ebook version of The Peat-Free Diet, which is currently only available as an audio book. But for the immediate future my next project is going to be getting back into gardening, which has been another thing that has been on hold through changing circumstances. I have seeds germinating on the windowsills, and an allotment to cultivate this year, so that’s definitely the next thing on the agenda.

Monday, April 14, 2014

An Interview with Emma Cooper

It is my great pleasure to host Emma Cooper, author of Jade Pearls andAlien Eyeballs, as part of her virtual book tour. Emma graciously sat down with me to answer a few questions about her book, the plants she loves, and writing. And don't forget to listen to the reading at the end! It's really wonderful. Any questions for Emma? Send them along in the comments and I'll share them with her. And on Wednesday, Emma will stop by again to continue our conversation. Don't miss it! - JB

Emma Cooper, ready for action!
What inspired you to write this guidebook? You touch on it in the introduction, of course, but I'd love to hear a bit more about it.

I first started thinking about writing this book in the middle of 2010, and for very personal reasons it was put on hold several times. To be honest, I can no longer remember the first spark of inspiration that led me to develop the concept, but I was (and still am) interested in why people choose to grow unusual edibles. I’d met a lot of interesting people online who were doing just that, and I thought they would have some interesting stories to share.

What were the first plants you ever grew? Not unusual edibles, but the very first plants you grew that inspired you to keep gardening. 

I grew coriander and leaf beet, mint and garlic, potatoes in pots, lettuce and beetroot and some other herbs. I think it was probably the leaf beet that inspired me to keep gardening. It was a plant I hadn’t known about before, that was very easy to grow, and which could easily be incorporated into the type of meals we were eating at that time.

What was the first unusual edible you grew? How did you find it or how did it find you?

Achocha, from the Heritage Seed Library (HSL). This was way back in 2005, and it’s all a little hazy, but I’d joined up with the HDRA (now Garden Organic) to learn more about organic gardening, and found out about their HSL. I blogged at the time that achocha was my ‘top choice’, so I was obviously thrilled to find something unusual to grow. I continue to be an HSL member; in the intervening years I have bemoaned the lack of unusual edibles in their catalogues, but they now offer a lot more that they have collected via the Sowing New Seeds project.

What's the most interesting thing you've learned from growing unusual edibles? 

I find it fascinating that the knowledge regarding our food plants is so comparmentalised, and buried in people’s heads rather than being easily accessible. For example, while I was checking through the manuscript for publication, I was talking to Owen Smith about strawberry spinach, and he told me that you can eat the roots. Which is not surprising, as they are related to beetroot, but it wasn’t something I had come across before. I sent him some seeds, so hopefully he will do some experiments this year and we can all read about them on his blog.

Here Emma does a short reading from Jade Pearls and Alien Eyeballs to intrigue and inspire! 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Tokyo Farmers Markets: Saturday, April 12th and Sunday, April 13th

Lovely citrus at the UNU Farmers Market.

Even as the sakura (cherry) blossoms fade, Spring keeps rolling in. And that means that growers everywhere are getting ready to roll out a new round of the seasons best. Don't hesitate even in this early season to venture off to one of these great markets to see what treasures can be found. Citrus still abound while winter veg are making some of their final appearances. Keep an eye out for the odd-looking udo and some of its stranger sansai (mountain vegetable) counterparts. There's foodly adventures everywhere! See you at the market!

Market of the Sun
Saturday, April 12th and Sunday, April 13th
The newest of Tokyo's farmers markets, Market of the Sun professes to be one of the largest. A short walk from Tsukiji Market and its wonderful surrounds, it's worth a stop for a selection of foodly and crafty items that rivals that at the UNU Market.
10am to 4pm
No map but step out of Kachidoki Station exits A4a and A4b

Every Saturday and Sunday
A massive weekend affair that is great fun and features a variety of fruits and vegetables and prepared products from all over Japan. Plus, there's a most excellent selection of food trucks offering everything from salad to zingy curry to roast chicken to falafel!
10am to 4pm

Every Saturday
Back up and running after a refurbishment of the market space, the Roppongi Farmers Market is as booming and bountiful as ever. Don't miss this chance to meet a grower from Tokyo's very own Kokobunji and sample seasonal bounty.
10am to 4pm (Usually. Do check their website for schedule fluctuations.)
Map

Yurakucho Farmer's Market
Every Saturday and Sunday
Smaller than the UNU Market, Yurakacho features a particular region of Japan each week along with an excellent selection of seasonal fruit and vegetables. Growers from nearby Chiba, Kamakura, and Saitama are also on hand to help fill the larder.
11am to 5pm
Directions: Turn left out of Yurakacho station and cross the courtyard toward Tokyo Kouku Keitan. Look for the fun under the overhang!

Know of a market? Give me a shout and we'll add it to the list!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Jade Pearls and Alien Eyeballs: A Review


The latest book by Emma Cooper, Jade Pearls and Alien Eyeballs (Smashwords, May, 2014), combines two of her favorite topics: gardening and unusual edibles. Cooper, author of four unique gardening books – The Allotment Pocket Bible (Crimson Publishing, 2011), The Alternative Kitchen Garden (Permanent Publications, 2009), Growing Vegetables is Fun! (Dennis Publishing, 2008), and the audiobook The Peat Free Diet (Emma Cooper, 2012) – is an established author and expert in her field. The recent addition of a Master of Science in Ethnobotany deepens what she is able to share on her website and helped spur Jade Pearls into existence.

Cooper states in her introduction that Jade Pearls is meant to inform and inspire gardeners everywhere to try growing unusual edibles. Many are perennials, which makes them easy to incorporate into forest gardens, regular landscape schemes, or anywhere a gardener might want to have a reliable feature. She begins with a short history of global plant movement (from Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt up to modern day plant research in space) that sets the stage for how the unusual edibles later profiled made their way to the gardeners she introduces in subsequent chapters. Even if one is not a farmer like me, the stories are fascinating.

Likewise, the growers she introduces – a mix of amateur and professional (including yours truly) – are as captivating. Some, like me, grow for fun and by accident (plants given as gifts or normal for the new place we find ourselves living) while others (like Owen Smith at Radix Root Crops) research how to grow these plants out of concern for a changing climate or as a solution to other environmental worries. Regardless, there is plenty to learn and inspire. Cooper provides plenty of links to websites, books, and articles making her Jade Pearls an ideal springboard for searching out more information on how to grow some of these lovelies on your own.

Like any good gardening book should, Jade Pearls had me jotting down additions to the list of things I want to read (Stephen Barstow's Around the World in 80 Plants springs to mind) and the list of plants I want to grow (mung beans and the Japanese wine berry) this year or next. It also has me thinking more deeply about perennial edibles native to Japan that could be incorporated into my new garden here in Kanagawa. One minor drawback was the lack of photos (Cooper says she prefers to avoid photos as it forces readers to do some of their own homework. Read more of her thoughts on that next week when she visits as part of her virtual book tour.) It is, though, by no means a deal breaker. Jade Pearls is a very welcome addition to my library and even though it's in electronic form, I expect it soon to be well-thumbed.

by Emma Cooper
Available for preview and pre-order at Smashwords
Officially available on May 1st


Look for an extended interview with Emma next week along with a reading as part of her virtual book tour. Check out the whole calendar for even more fun!

Friday, April 4, 2014

April Farmers Markets in Tokyo

A lovely month to find and buy seed-starting supplies at markets, too!

April is upon us and the sakura are blooming like mad! Skies alternate sun and rain, which only means plenty more for farmers to bring in to tempt your tastebuds. Try some sansai (mountain vegetables), nanohana, or any of the many other delightful spring treats only to be found in Japan! See you at the market!

Ebisu Market
Sunday, April 6th and Sunday, April 20th
Ebisu will be in full form this month with its two usual markets. Don't miss the opportunity to head to a nifty part of the city where on these sweet Sundays you'll find farmers and producers galore. (One even comes from Okutama with a lovely array of vegetables and a vegetable-based spread that will knock your socks off.) It's worth noting, too, that Do One Good, an animal NPO will be on hand with some of the cutest dogs ever waiting to go home with you!
11am to 5pm
Map

Market of the Sun
Saturday, April 12th and Sunday, April 13th
The newest of Tokyo's farmers markets, Market of the Sun professes to be one of the largest. A short walk from Tsukiji Market and its wonderful surrounds, it's worth a stop for a selection of foodly and crafty items that rivals that at the UNU Market.
10am to 4pm
No map but step out of Kachidoki Station exits A4a and A4b

Koenji Farmer's Market
Saturday, April 19th
A new market I spotted while riding the train on a Saturday morning into the city center. That circle of red awnings in front of the Za-Koenji Public Theatre could only mean one thing! Sure enough, I found a small group of area growers and producers, and the bounty surely continues!
11am - 5pm
Map

Nippori Farmer's Market
Saturday, April 19th and Sunday, April 20th
Another great market in the city found with a little help from friends, this one is sure to not disappoint. A small but lively market, particularly on Saturday, it is well worth the trip. Plus, Tohoku growers are on hand sharing their best-of-the-best, so come on out to be part of the recovery and get something good to eat.
No map, but just head out the east exit and look for the green awnings!
10am to 5pm

Sunday, April 27th
I could go wax on forever about how great this market is and how important it is for the future of Japanese farming and global food security. Instead, I'll just insist that folks go and see for themselves what great things the market and these innovative growers are doing. This month the market will be a bit of its wonderful normalness. If something exciting comes up, though, I promise to alert folks. Planning is in the works, so who knows what Fairtrade excitement might be in the air?
10am to 4pm, Rain or shine!

Every Saturday and Sunday
A massive weekend affair that is great fun and features a variety of fruits and vegetables and prepared products from all over Japan. Plus, there's a most excellent selection of food trucks offering everything from salad to zingy curry to roast chicken to falafel!
10am to 4pm

Every Saturday
Back up and running after a refurbishment of the market space, the Roppongi Farmers Market is as booming and bountiful as ever. Don't miss this chance to meet a grower from Tokyo's very own Kokobunji and sample seasonal bounty.
10am to 4pm (Usually. Do check their website for schedule fluctuations.)
Map

Yurakucho Farmer's Market
Every Saturday and Sunday
Smaller than the UNU Market, Yurakacho features a particular region of Japan each week along with an excellent selection of seasonal fruit and vegetables. Growers from nearby Chiba, Kamakura, and Saitama are also on hand to help fill the larder.
11am to 5pm
Directions: Turn left out of Yurakacho station and cross the courtyard toward Tokyo Kouku Keitan. Look for the fun under the overhang!

Know of a market? Give me a shout and we'll add it to the list!