Skip to main content

Tokyo Garden


Hard as it may be to believe I've been lucky enough to have a garden here in Tokyo. Shortly after starting to work at a local organic farm I was offered gardening space. It's not huge, but it's lovely and I've been so incredibly happy to be able to have it. I've only written a bit about the garden now and again, but now that the winter vegetables are nearly all in I thought I would share some of the photo highlights.

We grew bok choi (pictured above), beets, a number of herbs, edible and non-edible flowers, long beans, eggplant, cherry tomatoes, three kinds of kale, radishes, spicy peppers, what turned out to be ornamental strawberries, swiss chard, American pumpkin, and long onions.

Some worked out better than others, of course. The American Pumpkin (pictured at left) didn't make it. Perhaps the Tokyo summer with its high heat and humidity proved too much or it was a case of powdery mildew. Either way, despite its fantastic good looks - vines that stretched from the bed to the edge of the garden and then over the compost pile nearly to the chestnut grove - it didn't set fruit and died.

Most of the herbs did tremendously well. We've got a ton of pesto in the freezer, and I'm still drying others. The mint and lemon balm are attempting a take over of one of the beds, but so far I've held my own against them. I knew better than to let them loose, but I had spring fever and so in they went. To our delight, the fennel attracted what looked like Monarch caterpillars and we let them munch all they wanted. The farmers said they turned into a large black butterfly, although I don't know which one. Later, the blossoms attracted a bevy of bees and other pollinators. I never knew who I would find buzzing about and bedecked with pollen.

Our tomatoes and eggplants thrived for the most part, and despite a recent typhoon battering the tomatoes are still offering up fruit. (I just ate a couple gold gems tonight while checking on seedlings and trying to spot cabbage worms on the kale.) The Green Zebras don't seem to be thrilled, but they went in a little late. We've gotten a few fruits that we've enjoyed immensely. The farmers are still skeptical of a green tomato, but if any tomato can bring them around it's Green Zebra. And if not, more for us!

The kale (all three varieties) did well, and I believe it will make it through the winter. That's been a taste of home we delight in every day thanks to the help of a good friend. It, too, was not impressed with the high heat and humidity of a Tokyo summer and struggled through July and August a bit. Then the cabbage worms came a-snackin', and so it goes. Now that it's turning cooler, the plants are starting to look a bit more like themselves again.

The great joy of any garden is sharing it, and I've shared this one with a good friend. Turns out it was her first garden, and it was great to be there with her. Luckily for me, she's got a real talent for starting seeds, and so the bounty seemed to never end. (A typical haul is shown below. This was only what was in the front basket of my bike.) We share the garden, too, with the farmers who visit to see how things are going and to see what we're growing. If I'd only had a camera the first time they tasted nasturtiums or nibbled a bit of fennel. Without their generosity there would be no kale on our plates and no pesto in our freezer. (They've come to love pesto.)

Our garden sits in the southwest corner of the farm where a walking street runs. People regularly stop to admire the flowers and vegetables, and are often surprised to see two foreigners working away in the beds. Our Japanese is not so hot, but it doesn't matter. We smile and offer a just-picked tomato or flower, and the smile we get in return is communication enough. It's been a pleasure.

The photo at left shows me picking some beans and the garden in August. Behind me is are fields now filled with carrots, daikon, and broccoli. The edge of the chestnut grove is just visible in the top left corner. Behind me are two beds that have recently been bequeathed to me for growing space. (It's now planted in garlic, daikon, mitsuna, mustard, arugula, beets, onions, cabbage, and broccoli and covered with a tent.) We've also tidied up the space along the wall (third photo down) and prepped it for herbs, flowers, and maybe even strawberries. The toad living there wasn't thrilled at first, but we think he'll like the remodeling.

I can't believe how many crops - in the farm and in the garden - have been planted and harvested and planted again. The sweet potatoes I helped plant this spring are going to be harvested by pre-schoolers this Saturday, and the third round of broccoli is coming along nicely. I can hardly believe I get to plant winter vegetables, and I have no idea what to expect - as usual. But I'm excited to see what will happen and so grateful for this garden.

Comments

Ambry Farms said…
Hi Joan, It's so inspiring to see all your adventures in gardening this summer. And all in your first year in Tokyo! I'm very happy for you.

Amy

Popular posts from this blog

Finding Heirloom Seeds in Japan

Drying pods of heirloom Hutterite Soup Beans. Since moving to Japan eight years ago, one of my greatest challenges as a farmer-gardener has been to find heirloom or open-pollinated seeds. The majority of seeds available are not GMO (genetically modified organisms) as Japan, at this point, doesn't accept this material. Most seeds, though, are nearly all F1 varieties. Heirloom and F1 Varieties In plant breeding, F1 is the name given to the first generation of a cross between two true breeding parents. For example, if I decide to cross an Amish Paste Tomato with another heirloom variety tomato such as Emmy, in hopes of getting a gold paste tomato, the resulting generation of fruit is F1. In order to get that tomato of my culinary dreams, I'll need to choose members of that first generation that are headed in a direction I like - early ripening, medium-sized fruit, good taste - and save their seeds. I'll plant them and repeat the process again and again over time unti

Kamakura Farmers Market: Giant Buddhas and Good Vegetables

Kamakura Farmers Market entrance A little more than an hour train ride south of Tokyo sits Kamakura. Like Kyoto and Nara, Kamakura is a former capital full to the brim with temples, shrines, and a bounty of historical sites lining its winding streets. Nestled in a cozy bay with beaches and a giant Buddha tucked amongst the rest, it's a city that invites multiple visits if not at least one. And those seeking a farmers market well-stocked with traditional vegetables, skilled growers ready to share recipes and chat about their wares, along with some nifty prepared foods to rejuvenate themselves after so many temples surely won't be disappointed, either. Kamakura Farmers Market - right side full of signs Started nearly twenty years ago, the Kamakura Farmers Market or Kamakurasui Nyogyou Rensokubaijo, runs seven days a week nearly year-round. A ten-minute walk from the station, the market is located in what at first glance looks like nothing so much as a run-down w

Satoimo: One of Japan's Favorite Slimy Things

Satoimo in all their hairy glory. This post first appeared in slightly different form on Garden to Table as part of the 2012  Blogathon . The website has since moved on to the ether, but the post is still a good one. After all, people here are still eating satoimo on a daily basis, and many others are just seeing these little potato-like objects for the first time. Enjoy! Satoimo is one of Japan's odder vegetables. Under it's rough, slightly furry skin is white flesh that is a little bit slimy even raw, and with a gentle nutty flavor.* Baked, grilled, steamed with dashi, or deep-fried satoimo stands well on its own or paired up with other vegetables and meats in a wide variety of soups and stews . (The leaves are also edible.) Satoimo stores well, and like any root crop worth the effort, stocks are just running low on this household favorite as the farmers in my area of Tokyo get ready to put a new crop in the ground in May. I cannot say I was a fan of this l