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Showing posts from June, 2009

Pajeon, The Korean Pancake

One of our favorite foods from our visit to Korea has to be Pajeon , the Korean vegetable pancake. We ate it first at a little place in Yeosu with the usual variety of side dishes - kimchi, acorn tofu, daikon, and dried or pickled fish - and a big bowl of Makgeolli , iced Korean rice wine. Ours consisted of chopped octopus, shrimp, daikon tops, hot peppers, and onion all held together by egg and a bit of flour. Quickly fried the "pancake" is placed on a plate and served piping hot to the table. Our cousin, Grace, and her friend Jack, deftly used their chopsticks to demolish it into chunks that we eagerly snatched up to eat. A small bowl with soy sauce and minced garlic offered optional dipping. I didn't get a recipe while there, but this one and this one are the ones I plan to try in the near future.

The Weather Was Hot and So Was the Kimchi

We took a quick weekend trip to South Korea to visit a cousin and, of course, to eat! And what we found on the table before us did not disappoint in the least. Every meal came with an array of small dishes featuring a variety of kimchis and other pickled vegetables. I tried to keep track, but it soon became nearly impossible. Moments after sitting down a variety of bowls with unknown tasty treats landed on the table, and then once we ordered another bevy of bowls arrived to crowd out nearly everything else. And then the main dish meandered in and forced everything else to shuffle and bump out of its way. The usual cabbage kimchi was always served, but other variations also appeared usually without fail - daikon tops; fish; daikon cubed or sliced and either spicy red or sweetly vinegared; eggplant; or mushrooms - to be joined by dried or pickled fish, a bean sprout salad, or perhaps battered fish coins or battered spam. (Yes, spam.) Fermented sometimes for years (a friend, quite ri

USDA Census Results In!

I had no idea that the USDA took a farming census every five years tracking everything from who's farming to what kind of farming is happening. Information about specific states and the compiled results of previous surveys ( beginning with 1840 ) are also available. The most interesting thing from the latest survey? An increase in the number of farms (more than 75,000) with the majority of those owned and operated by younger farmers.

A Little Earth Day Once a Month

Sunday morning found us trudging through a good steady rain to the Earth Day Market in Yoyogi Park. We weren't sure exactly what we would find - if anything or anyone - but we'd been trying to get here since the Earth Day Tokyo 2009 event. A little rain wasn't going to stop us now! Damp yet enthusiastic vendors offered vegetables, prepared foods (mostly vegan and vegetarian), jams and preserves, handmade soaps and bath products, hand-dyed yarns, the biggest selection of millet I've ever seen along with sorghum and black rice, organic beer, seedlings, beans, honey, and cooking oils. Damp yet enthusiastic customers merrily jostled about with umbrellas to shop or chatted away while snacking at little tables under awnings. We sampled an assortment of jams from both Tokotowa and Yokohama Honmoku , and wished we could have bought one of everything. Mouthwatering strawberry, blueberry, fig, and pear jams tempted us, and the tomato ketchup at Yokohama Honmoku would make P

Girl Meets Hydrangea

At the moment, hydrangea (Ajisai) bloom absolutely everywhere in splendid color - blue, white, pale purple, deep pink, nearly red, lavender, white, and all shades in between - and I now find them irresistable. Tucked in corners, peering over walls, lining garden paths, or leaning out from roadside beds the blooms just don't stop. Their blooming also marks the beginning of rainy season , making them a literal bright spot during a wet and humid moment in time.

Tochi in the Attic

Fourth in a series about our adventures in Nagano Prefecture with One Life Japan . After thatching in Koakazawa we stopped at a woodworking studio in Oakazawa, a larger village a little further down the valley. A dozen or so gnarled and bumpy trunks of tochis (the Japanese Horse Chestnut, Aesculpus turbinata) stood sentry around the building and parking lot. The largest and oldest of these was reportedly 750 years old, and required about four of us stretching to our utmost to give it a good hug. Valued both for their nuts as well as the wood, these woodland giants are often tucked away along wooded stream and river beds in lower mountain areas, making it a challenge to harvest. According to one of the carvers, close examination of a local road map can show where a great tochi once stood. As construction moved along someone spotted a tochi they wanted, and the road subsequently swung through that spot. The carver showed us a recent creation - a table - made from a piece of tochi tr

Aphid Update

Well, the aphids are still around , but the most effective means I've found of eradicating them is the old-fashioned rushing water method. I simply pour water along the stem of the plant and do a little squishing as I go. It is still rather disgusting, but at least I've been able to save the Swiss Chard. And the kale seedling is also suriving. The "deadly tea" I brewed seemed to have no effect on them, but I will say that I still found it a very satisfying procedure.

Japan's Tasty Secrets - Itadakumasu!

I've been perusing a new booklet just published - Japan's Tasty Secrets - covering a myriad of regional food favorites in Japan. Complete with a map, color photographs, and good basic descriptions it quickly moves the reader beyond the stereotypical sushi and rice (although these are also present in fantastic forms) to flavors, textures and ingredients that embody Japan through the seasons. Beginning with favorite Japanese foods eaten all across the country the booklet includes a large section on signature regional favorites that in some cases have been served for hundreds of years. The short descriptions include a bit of story (as all good food does) to further whet the appetite. Knowing it is difficult to grow rice further north in colder areas such as Nagano makes the popularity of soba (buckwheat noodles) clear to me at last. ( Buckwheat requires a shorter growing season and is a good source of nutrition.) Imagining food shortages after WW2 gives the Ikinari dago (sw

Kiwi Season!

We found a big bag of beautiful fresh-picked kiwifruit available at a local farm stand yesterday morning. I've shopped other local stands at farms in the areas for vegetables and had heard fruit was also available, but this was the first time I'd ever encountered it. Utterly thrilled is one of the best ways I can describe how I felt seeing those fruit sitting there ready for the taking. We could see more getting ready to be picked in the orchard, along with a selection of othersthat we will be delighted to eat once they are in season. As I've mentioned before , a number of local farms in our area have small stands where seasonal fruits and vegetables are sold. I travel about looking to see what's available at the moment. Usually, the stand sits at the edge of the the fields, with bags of produce organized and ready for the taking. The shopper scans the shelf, chooses what they want, and pops the appropriate number of coins in a cannister. With the exception of larger s

Good Folks Doing Good Work

I know it's been a bit chilly, but there's a not-to-miss event coming up on Sunday, June 14th not too far from Ann Arbor and in one of the prettiest little corners of Washtenaw County there is to visit. The Iron Creek Properties Workday is a chance to spend time helping restore a lovely piece of land otherwise not open to the public, and to talk with the landowners about what's been done so far. Truly, it's not to be missed. Organized by the Raisin Cluster of The Stewardship Network , these workdays take place on the Kolon and Kellum family properties and are named for the creek that makes the border between them. (If I weren't in Japan, I'd be out there getting my own taste of a Michigan Spring.) This workday will cover a review (and most likely musings) on the after effects of a series of controlled burns, invasive plant control techniques, and lots of hands on work. Go on out and get dirty! Iron Creek Properties Workday Sunday, June 14th 10am to 1pm Kellu

Aphids Beware

I have an aphid problem . In Michigan, they attacked my tomatoes, and I did a great deal of squishing. (I never found the method of blasting them off with a jet of water very effective.) In Japan, they are attacking everything - swiss chard, nasturtiums, parsley, cilantro, johnny-jump-ups - on both porches. Birds and bugs (neither of which I can identify at this moment) are helping as they can, but when they attacked my kale seedlings I drew the line. Aphids reveal themselves in spring and will hang out for a whole season if one is not attentive. They will overwinter in woody plants, so diligence is required for a season or two to say the least. Much to my dismay, they at some point develop wings (hellish things), and fly off to find a new buffet. Ants will apparently also move them about since the ant enjoys the honeydew the aphid desposits as it snacks. I read that a strong chamomille tea would encourage them to leave, so I thought I'd give it a shot. (I can't find a refer

Yui on a Thatched Roof in Japan

Third in a series recounting our adventures in Nagano Prefecture on a trip with One Life Japan !  Golden Week 2009 found us rumbling along mountain roads in Spring. Dry rice fields rimmed small villages, rows of tulips, blossoming wild cherries and mountain rivers nearly bursting with meltwater greeted us as we made our way to Koakazawa. There we joined other volunteers to rethatch the roof of a traditional Japanese farmhouse. Built originally from locally harvested materials – from the timbers to the thatch (kayah) - a home like this once was a regular feature of the rural Japanese landscape. Sheltering animals along with the farm family the home would have featured a central fire vented through a hole at the peak of the roof. As the smoke rose it would also dry the additional grass (kayah) stored in the rafter for future roofing needs. The flexible structure and simple design (a box, really) also made it possible for friends and neighbors to literally push it back into shape if