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Tokyo Garden Update - Winter Crops Sprouting

One of the best parts about today (other than speaking with friends and family back home celebrating Christmas) was peeking into the row covers and seeing little tiny sprouts looking back!

We planted just under 360 seeds on December 13th in freshly tilled soil. This time of year calls for leafy green vegetables that can withstand the chilly nights (dipping a tad bit below freezing on occasion) and short hours of sunlight. (It's dark dark about 5pm, and doesn't get light until about 7am.) I'd had a few moments of stomach-dropping doubt when I didn't see any sprouts the past few visits. And while the little guys are difficult to see in the photo at left the resulting sigh of relief and shared smile with the Takashi's as we peeked in made it well worth the wait.

Here's what we planted:
  • Pak Choi - one of the many tasty Asian greens that are perfect in stir fry or salad.

  • Komatsuna - A tasty Japanese leafy green named after Tokyo's Kamatsu River it has a nutty spicy flavor, and we can't wait to chomp into it. This article gives a fascinating history of local vegetable varieties, including Komatsuna. My garden is just off the map to the west past Mitaka.

  • Karashina - We put in two kinds of green and one kind of red. Karashina resembles mizuna somewhat in appearance, but has a zippier taste that has made it a favorite in our house salads. Like mizuna, karashina can also be added to nabe, oden, and miso for a nice touch of green.

  • Edible Chrysanthemums - I don't actually know much about these, except that they are edible. I bought some once and we added it to our salad mix, and the taste was a bit bitter but the leaf shape was nice.

  • Spinach - We planted two kinds of spinach to see what we would get. One seed was rounded, and the other seed had little spikes on it that were uncomfortably pokey even for the short time I held them in my hand.

The Takashi's recommend the use of black plastic mulch. Just like any mulch it keeps the soil warm, keeps down weeds, and retains moisture. We didn't use it over the summer, but it seemed like a good choice given the low temps and short sunlight for this time of year. All of this was topped off with perforated plastic to create a long mini hoophouse tunnel. We'll see how it all goes!


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