Wednesday, January 28, 2015

My interview with Juliet Kemp in Urban Farms Magazine


Permaculture isn't just for those with vast garden spaces, according to Juliet Kemp, author of Permaculture in Pots, and she's quite right. In the January/February, 2015 issue of Urban Farms Magazine I talk with Kemp about turning balconies, window sills, and back patios into productive permaculture havens and why it matters. You'll have to buy the magazine, but it's worth every cent!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Who Needs an Oven? Rice Cooker Yeast Bread

The finished product - rice cooker yeast bread.
When we lived at home in the United States, I made bread on a pretty regular basis. I loved the process, inspired by my mother and Uncle Bob, I would mix and knead, breathing in that wonderful yeasty smell. I would also snarf down in short order the resulting golden brown loaves, butter and jam pooling on the grainy surface.

Since moving to Japan six years ago, I have not had an oven. Yes, I know I can get one, but I don't want to give up the counter space, and I don't want another thing I have to lug with me when we move. But, I do find that I crave homemade bread. Dense, heavy breads made with dark flours that go well with cheese don't really exist here. Oh, they do if I go to a specialty bakery, but I'm relatively lazy. When I want my bread, I don't want to ride the train for an hour and a half to find it's sold out or not what I really wanted.

My friend Hitomi, as she often does, came to the rescue early on with a recipe for green tea bread in the rice cooker. I made it a few times and then got to thinking, why not do a yeast bread? So, I looked to the Tassajara Bread Book for their basic recipe, and then got down to business. It's easy, but a little time-consuming.

Ingredients*

1.5  cups lukewarm water (85 to 105 degrees)
3/4  Tbsp. dry yeast (1 packages)
2 Tbsp. sweetener (honey, molasses, or brown sugar)
2  cups whole-wheat flour (substitute 1 or more cups unbleached white flour if desired)
2  tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. and 2 tsp. oil or butter or margarine*
1.5 cups additional whole-wheat flour
1/2  cup whole-wheat flour for kneading

The sponge, bubbling away.
In a large glass or ceramic bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. Stir in the sweetener. Stir in the 2 cups of flour to form a thick batter. Beat well with a spoon (100 strokes). This part of the process is called making the sponge. The name, I believe, comes from the fact that it looks rather spongey. This is a personal theory.

Cover with a towel and let the dough rise for 45 minutes until doubled in size. I usually set mine in the sun or next to the coffee maker when it's still going.

Doubled in size, basking in the sun.
Fold in the salt and the oil. Then fold in the additional 1.5 cups of flour until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. Knead on a floured board for about 10 minutes**, using additional flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to the board. Stop when the dough is smooth. (Folding in is a process I learned from Tassajara. Never break up the dough, but rather stir around the edges and fold the dough over on itself. It maintains the integrity of the dough and makes for a better loaf. This is also the time when things like raisins, oatmeal, or whatever would get added to the dough.)

Punch it real good.
After the punching.
Let the dough rise for 50 to 60 minutes, or until doubled in size. Punch it down. (Yup, you really punch it.)

Let the dough rise for another 40 to 50 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Cut the dough in half.
Cut the dough in half, shape into circles, and let rest for ten minutes. (It's traumatic.)

Waiting to rise for the last time.
Place one circle in the lightly oiled rice cooker pan and let it rise for 20 to 25 minutes. I usually put it in the rice cooker with the lid closed. I DO NOT turn on the rice cooker at this time.

Wrap the other circle in wax paper, pop it in a ziploc bag, and set it in the freezer for later.

Turn on the rice cooker and run it for a full cycle. When it beeps that it is done, turn the loaf over and turn on the rice cooker again. When the loaf sounds hollow and is golden brown, it's done.

Just eat it...
*Caveat Alert: I know that baking is essentially chemistry, and that I am meant to carefully and exactly measure out my ingredients each time in order to achieve the desired effect. Well, I don't. I guess, toss things in at random, and hope for the best. I like to think of myself as an inventor, an experimenter, a mad scientist, if you will. The above list is exact, but I sometimes don't measure it perfectly.

**Another Caveat Alert: I knead the dough longer than ten minutes. I enjoy the process, and I find that to achieve that smooth-skinned feel, I need more time.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Tokyo and Yokohama Farmers Markets for Saturday, January 23rd and Sunday, January 24th

The UNU Market in warmer days...
The weather looks promising for the weekend despite a spate of rain this week, so don't be shy about heading to the markets. As always, the Earth Day Market in Yoyogi promises some of the best fun to be had, but the other markets are wonderful, too. Grab your backpack and head out for some of the best veg the season has to offer! 

Sunday, January 25th
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 a three-day wonderland of organic and fair trade goodness not to be missed. Come frolic and enjoy!
10am to 4pm, Rain or shine!
Map

Futamatagawa Farmers Market - Yokohama
Every Friday
A charming little weekly market tucked conveniently just outside the turnstile at Futamatagawa Station in Yokohama where a nice selection of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables await. Joining them are baked goods, rice, miso, and all the other fixings one might need for the week or just a good snack. Plenty of Kanagawa goodies, too, so be sure to ask!
10am to 6pm
Look for the tables when you step out the gate!

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, January 21, 2015

My Review of d47 Shokudo in Metropolis Magazine

Nagano natto mixed with umeboshi and topped with miyoga.
Serious yum.
As a farmer and gardener, I love to eat and thankfully, Japan is chock full of terrific food. My favorite spouse and I have wandered near and far exploring this lovely land, its food, and meeting some terrific people. However, there are many places we haven't been able to explore yet, but lucky for us antenna shops and places like d47 Shokudo are around to remind us the tasty adventures to be had.

d47 Shokudo is the foodly arm of Kenmei Nagaoka's d and design firm, which focuses on show-casing the best each prefecture has to offer. It's a brilliant scheme, and the shokudo is just as wonderful in the array of foods offered from each of Japan's 47 prefectures. My review in Metropolis Magazine takes readers on a mouth-watering tour, hopefully inspiring a wander over to sample for yourselves. Affordable, delicious, and ridiculously fun. Go!

Monday, January 19, 2015

My Review of Around the World in 80 Plants at Permaculture Magazine


I wasn't kidding when I said I review books for Permaculture Magazine. It's a great publication full of practical advice, recipes, and stories of people creating sustainability all around them. (Think Mother Earth News with feet firmly planted in permaculture.) I love it and what they're up to, and heartily recommend subscribing.

I also heartily recommend Stephen Barstow's Around the World in 80 Plants. Barstow, a charming author and talented permaculturalist, shares a selection of the perennial edibles in his collection of more than 2,000 plants. He includes history, recipes, and other lovely tidbits that made this book almost impossible to put down. Barstow has had a very good time exploring, eating, and writing about these plants, and I am convinced this book is his way of sharing the fun. It is also excellent advice for those of us zipping along the front wave of climate change. Read my review here and then pick up a copy for yourself and let the fun begin!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Tokyo and Yokohama Farmers Markets for Saturday, January 17th and Sunday, January 18th

Yummy organic wine at the Earth Day Farmers Market.
A rather hip-hopping weekend of markets is upon us, Tokyo and Yokohama! Don't miss the chance to head out to find some of winter's best on hand and explore the city a bit, to boot. Beautiful weather is forecast for the weekend, so it's well worth the effort. Ebisu is always fun and there's Afuri Ramen just around the corner to feed your weary bones afterward. Nippori never fails to delight and Kitamura-san is sure to be on hand with the best her winter fields can offer. I would be remiss in not mentioning her mother's homemade pickles. They sell out quickly, so do try and go on Saturday. See you there!

Ebisu Market

Sunday, January 18th
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, January 17th
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, January 17th and Sunday, January 18th
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

Oiso Farmers Market
Sunday, January 18th
This little gem of a community shindig is one of the best things going outside of the Earth Day Market, and I don't say that lightly. A nice little community affair started a handful of years ago, it blossomed into a full-on monthly festival that just happens to feature Shonan area produce in its fresh, seasonal form as well as pickled, dried, and prepared-hot-in-a-bowl. In summer it turns into a night market, but in fall it will swing back to regular daylight hours. More than worth the trek down to see what's going on!
10am to 3pm
Oiso Port Building

Futamatagawa Farmers Market - Yokohama
Every Friday
A charming little weekly market tucked conveniently just outside the turnstile at Futamatagawa Station in Yokohama where a nice selection of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables await. Joining them are baked goods, rice, miso, and all the other fixings one might need for the week or just a good snack. Plenty of Kanagawa goodies, too, so be sure to ask!
10am to 6pm
Look for the tables when you step out the gate!

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, January 12, 2015

My Review of Farming the Woods at Permaculture Magazine


It has been my great pleasure to review books on a somewhat regular basis for Permaculture Magazine. One of my latest is of Farming the Woods by Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel. I won't repeat every word of my review here, but I will say it's a book that should be added to the shelves of those who like to eat and do so sustainably. It was inspiring, informative, and hopeful. Read the review and then add it to your collection. You'll be glad you did.

http://www.permaculture.co.uk/book-reviews/farming-woods