Friday, May 22, 2015

Tokyo and Yokohama Regional Farmers Markets: Saturday, May 23rd and Sunday, May 24th



Beautiful windy days are upon us with the occasional spate of rain. If one is a seed or a tomato plant, these are good times. The same is true for farmers and gardeners. Good times, indeed. The garden has been producing a prodigious amount of pea pods that never see the light of my kitchen. Instead, they simply get munched as I work along mulching popcorn, squash, tomatoes, and worrying about my zucchini. The markets below promise those same crunchy pods, something delightful strawberries, and all the best that is spring in Japan. Don't miss it.

Earth Day Market
Sunday, May 24th
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

Kamakura Farmers Market
Every day
A small local affair featuring Kamakura heirloom fruits and vegetables raised in yet another former capital city, the Kamakura Market is a small but wonderful venue. Head in early to get the best selection and pick up a loaf of Paradise Alley's charcoal infused bread while you're there.
7am until sold out
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!

Monday, May 18, 2015

My Review of The Tao of Vegetable Gardening up at Permaculture Magazine


Carol Deppe is one of the best garden writers around. Her books and articles are smart, funny, practical, and reflective. I've learned more from her than almost any other writer, and her books are the ones I turn to again and again. Her latest, The Tao of Vegetable Gardening, proved just as good. You can read my full review of it here at Permaculture Magazine, and then I recommend purchasing your own. It's a worthwhile investment.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Tokyo and Yokohama Regional Farmers Markets: Saturday, May 16th and Sunday, May 17th

ReWine at the Victoria Market in Melbourne.
Genius. Pure genius.
Despite a wandering typhoon earlier in the week, the weekend promises reasonably good weather for visiting these charming markets. Cabbage and broccoli should abound along with an early harvest of onions. Strawberries, too, should be in the full, sweet season and will be well worth devouring. Snappu Endou (peas) should also be readily available to satisfy all your snacking needs. And don't forget to pick up a seedling or two for starting a green curtain or a nice little balcony salad garden!

Ebisu Market

Sunday, May 17th
There is a wee bit of an extravaganza at the Ebisu Market this month with their Life is Delicious event. In celebration of the Golden Week holidays, the market is going full-tilt with vegetable and foodly fun. 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, May 16th
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, May 16th and Sunday, May 17th
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, May 17th
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

Kamakura Farmers Market
Every day
A small local affair featuring Kamakura heirloom fruits and vegetables raised in yet another former capital city, the Kamakura Market is a small but wonderful venue. Head in early to get the best selection and pick up a loaf of Paradise Alley's charcoal infused bread while you're there.
7am until sold out
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!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Thursday Snapshot: Fleabane Daisy


Always a favorite flower, I caught this little cluster on a recent sunrise hike with a friend. They are one of the handful of volunteer plants I try to not weed out of the garden or anywhere else. They are far too cheerful to remove.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Benefits of Mulch

Note the grass clipping mulch on the ends of the rows.
A friend who recently took up gardening mentioned she had a weed problem. “We just can’t keep up with them,” she said with an exasperated sigh. “They reappear as fast as we pull them out.”

When I asked whether or not she used mulch, she said no. “What’s that?” she asked, and I began a little talk about bare soil and why it shouldn't be allowed.

Soil is our greatest resource, and as gardeners and farmers we should not squander it. Like water, soil should be protected and used wisely. Mulch is an easy way to do that. Mulching a growing space large or small has a number of advantages.

Mulch suppresses weeds. A thick layer of organic mulch will smother any weeds or weed seeds loitering in the soil. Growers particularly worried about weeds can put down a thick layer of newspaper or cardboard first, and then pile the mulch on top. Weeds that do appear will be easy to spot and pull out with relative ease. Once pulled, the offending plant can be laid on top of the organic mulch to decompose and add its nutrients back into the soil it came from. 

Mulch regulates soil temperature. A good thick layer of mulch keeps soils cool on hot days and helps retain warmth as temperatures drop. Soil that is too hot can desiccate seeds, as well as overheat and subsequently stress plants. Winter gardeners will experience less frost heave that can damage plants, too.

Mulch helps retain moisture. A well-mulched growing space requires less watering, especially once plants are established. Unprotected soil gets baked hard, which makes it difficult for plant roots to grow in, much less to find the water and nutrients they need. It also makes it difficult for water and nutrients to move along, carried as they are by the various microscopic community members that live in the soil. Soft, crumbly soil makes all of that possible.

Mulch protects soil from wind and water erosion. Soil, as I mentioned earlier, is our greatest resource. Protecting it is a gardener and farmers first duty. Unmulched soil is more likely to blow away on the wind or wash away in the rain. Soil that is not in your garden bed doesn’t do much good for the plants. If it lands in waterways or gets vacuumed up from the neighbor’s living room rug, it’s wasted opportunity. Rebuilding soil is hard work and takes time. Protecting it with a layer of mulch means building on what is already there and making the most of what you have. 

Mulch can be either organic (grass clippings, leaves, sawdust, old weeds not gone to seed, hay or straw) or inorganic (black plastic, rocks, or landscape cloth). Organic mulches can also take the form of living mulches: low-growing plants like alyssum, purslane, clovers, or corn mache. These can be edible or help attract pollinators and predators that will help with gardening above ground. (See this review of The Holistic Orchard by Michael Phillips for some brilliant ideas.) It serves to suppress weeds, regulate soil temperature, and protect soil. However, as convenient as inorganic mulches might be, organic mulches are the logical choice.

Organic mulches are a soil builder. Layered on top of the soil, organic mulch makes a nice home for worms and all the other creatures that keep soil healthy, bring nutrients to the root ends, and protect plants from disease and predators. (If you don’t believe me, take a look at Teaming with Microbes, and you’ll never look at your soil the same again. Read a review here.) At the end of the season, organic mulch can be tilled in or, better yet, simply layered in for the next season. In this manner, the mulch provides the organic buffet those little soil-building creatures desire. As they go about their little daily lives eating, pooping, and chasing each other, they leave behind a trail of nutrients that eventually put the tomato on the table.

It is only fair to say that a case can be made for inorganic mulches. Black plastic is a miracle tool for warming the soil in early spring or when growing winter vegetables. Landscape cloth lets water through and effectively suppresses weeds. The problem with these items, though, is that they are expensive, petroleum-based products that are difficult to dispose of at the end of the season. This increases the carbon footprint of a growing space. Even if that doesn’t much matter, the toxic gases released when they are burned should. And if that isn’t an issue, then I’ll refer back to the previous paragraph that starts “Organic mulches are a soil builder.” I’d also add that they are often free. 

Recommended reading
The Resilient Gardener by Carol Deppe also has some excellent thoughts on mulching in various climates and on various types of mulches to try. Frankly, I recommend anything by her that you can find.

Lasagna Gardening by Patricia Lanza is a fantastic method for building a gardening with great soil in relatively short order. 

Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis will rock your world with what it reveals about the soil beneath your feet, flowers, and vegetables.

The Holistic Orchard by Michael Phillips is not just for orchardists or those with fruit trees. Phillips offers a number of excellent ideas that can be applied beyond the apple tree.







Friday, May 8, 2015

Tokyo and Yokohama Regional Farmers Markets: Saturday, May 9th and Sunday, May 10th

A selection of lovely citrus along the Shimanami Kaido.
Fields and gardens all around are planted or nearly so, which means market tables will be full to bursting with all sorts of goodies. Don't miss this opportunity to wander out into the city to find something seasonally scrumptious for dinner or for later in the week. We just returned from a bike trip on the Shimanami Kaido where we ate some of the most amazing citrus ever. You can find samples of this at the Roppongi and UNU Markets, by the way. Don't miss it!

Market of the Sun
Saturday, May 9th and Sunday, May 10th
The newest of Tokyo's farmers markets, Market of the Sun professes to be one of the largest, and this month looks to have a bit of an Italian theme, too. Cheese, anyone?. 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

Kamakura Farmers Market
Every day
A small local affair featuring Kamakura heirloom fruits and vegetables raised in yet another former capital city, the Kamakura Market is a small but wonderful venue. Head in early to get the best selection and pick up a loaf of Paradise Alley's charcoal infused bread while you're there.
7am until sold out
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!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Thursday Snapshot: Drying Squid in Ito

Drying squid on the street.
Ito, Japan.
Back in February or March we took a short trip to Ito to stay at the K's House Hostel and Onsen. There isn't much, frankly, going on in Ito, but the hostel itself was worth the trip. We did take a wander about the town, and we spotted fish drying everywhere. Plenty of neighborhood cats did, too, which is why the screen is over the top. The finished product is delicious.