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Showing posts from 2010

Yuzu-Apple Ginger Marmalade

The yuzu ginger marmalade is great. I really love it. But one of the local farmstands also sells apples, and I couldn't resist. Trouble is, I couldn't resist about two weeks ago, and I feared they would decide to leave before I came up with an activity for them. Dreaming of an apple butter using some of the togarashi (hot peppers) from the farm, I went in search of a recipe. I found this tasty sounding one for apple- ancho butter , but I ended up making a version of this one using some neighborhood yuzu (purchased from another local stand not scavenged!), the apples, and some ginger. So far, it's been a hit with my crew of tasters, although I am not sure how objective they are when it comes down to it. The yuzu flavor dominates, but perhaps the best part is biting into a little chunk of apple and getting a burst of sweet-sour. A bit of ginger also zips by the taste buds occasionally , which is always pleasant. The apples did not break down much at a

Christmas Yuzu Tree

Much to my delight and surprise, Santa brought a yuzu tree for Christmas this year. At the nursery it held four fruit, but three fell off during the bike ride (I mean, sleigh ride) home. Delivered as a set - one slug and a small white spider - I couldn't be happier. (The bottom photo is the slug trying to escape after I found him on one of the presents.) I'm thrilled given the popularity of the yuzu ginger marmalade , and for how nice it makes the apartment smell. I can just see it out next to my garden or somewhere else at the farm. I'd have to, of course, talk with the farmers first. I'm also suspicious that it's size might belie it's age. The farmers report that yuzu can take about eighteen years to fruit, although some sites suggest grafter trees can fruit in much less time. Meanwhile, I'll continue figuring out how to care for our newest family member and enjoy its happy presence.

Green Tea Seed Research

November found me visiting one of the many Tokyo farmer's markets to see what seasonal offerings were available. While visiting the Ebisu Farmers Market in November I met Noriko and Unikyo Sakyoen of Sakyoen Teas . They, of course, were selling their tea, but what drew me to their booth was the little box of brown balls pictured at left. Thinking with my sweet tooth, I assumed these were some kind of Japanese sweet I'd not met yet. Also thinking they were free samples, I jetted directly over. These are not something to be nibbled with tea, but they are tea itself. Green tea seedpods, to be exact. Rough to the touch and nearly light as a feather, they rattled a bit as I rolled them about in my hand. Sankyoen - san patiently explained to me in the simplest Japanese he could muster what they were and how to plant them. They have since sat in a small bowl on my bookcase waiting for me to make my move. While Sankyoen - san's advice is certainly sound (as the twelfth ge

Yacon or Jerusalem Artichoke?

One of the great thrills of a recent hike (other than great views of Mount Fuji and the fun of my companions) was finding a number of vegetable stalls at the end of the trail . (Ok, the monkey's were a highlight, too.) We all came home with yuzu , green tea, umeboshi , a handful of winter greens, and ginger. Well, so we thought. It turns out that what I thought was ginger for the yuzu-ginger marmalade I was dreaming up was something more potato-like. The distinctive ginger smell was lacking, and when I nibbled on them they were firm and sweetly bland. (Luckily for the marmalade I still had some ginger from a local vegetable stand .) These went back in the drawer for further investigation. Late last week a friend we'd visited on our first trip to Hokkaido came over for dinner. We shared a typical house meal - salad , miso, and rice - with an assortment of pickled things scattered about the table for variety. The miso contained shitake mushrooms, potatoes, carrots, lots of g

Yuzu Shu: Another Chapter in the Yuzu Chronicles

While I've already made four batches of yuzu -ginger marmalade (including one for Le Panier de Piu's December Cooking Party ), there are still a few yuzu hiding around the apartment. While I'm saving a few for the traditional dunking in the bath on the solstice , I also thought I'd try my hand this year at yuzushu . The umeshu process had been quite straight-forward, and my hunch was yuzushu would be as well. Solstice Yuzushu * 1.8 liters of shochu 6 yuzu , mostly the fat ones 250 grams of sugar Pour sugar into the bottom of a clean glass jar (non-reactive containers are best in these situations), and pop the yuzu fruit and peel on top. Pour in the shochu . The recipe I mostly followed suggests removing the peel after one week or so, and the fruit after a month. Let it age in a cool dark place for six months to a year to become a fine liqueur or a tolerably tasty mixer. We'll have to see. Caveats and More Caveats Fruit - Yuzu is famous in Japan for

Yuzu Ginger Marmalade

True to my word, I whipped up a batch of marmalade from the yuzu we bought on the trail . Last year, I made yuzu marmalade using the same recipe for my mikan marmalade , but this time I wanted something a little different. The mikan recipe is easy and delicious, but it requires a fair amount of time. I wanted a recipe that could be made and canned in a day, and that would include another seasonal favorite: ginger. (I also needed a good recipe to teach during Le Panier de Piu's cooking class this Saturday .) A quick search brought me to this recipe at Food in Jars . I'd found a terrific recipe for Rhubarb Butter there, and had seen an assortment of other recipes and solid information for canning and preserving. Marisa's recipe for Mikan-Ginger Marmalade sounded delicious and looked quite straight-forward. Tweaking it for my own kitchen and taste, I gave it a go and here's what I came up with to slather on our toast. Joan's Yuzu Marmalade* 8 cups y

Mountain Vegetable Stands and Monkeys

Last weekend, we took a most amazing hike in the mountains just west of here. A small group of us set out early on a sunny Saturday to explore a new set of trails. It was another glorious fall day - crisp, clear air full of sunlight - with fantastic views of Mount Fuji's snow-covered shoulders all the way out and along the trail to inspire us even more. Our course took us up to a ridge and around to two peaks well west of Mount Takao - Mount Syoto and Mount Jimba - then looped us back down to the station. The trails were lovely, albeit steep in places, but Mount Fuji and glimpses of the Southern Alps in the far distance proved effective distractions. I hope to write the hike up here for anyone wishing to follow our trompings , and publish a few more photographs. I've got a bevy of projects in the hopper at the moment, though, so in the meantime I'll share what was the highlight for me. As a yasai otaku (serious vegetable geek) , I am drawn to anything that looks remo

Hitomi's Rice Cooker Breakfast Bread

I learned recently that a rice cooker is not just for rice. I knew, for example, that one could toss in an assortment of things such as sliced carrots, garlic cloves, raisins, mushrooms, lentils, etc., to jazz things up. I also knew that one could mix rices - brown, white, black, red, etc. - with a handful of other grains to get a nifty concoction that was as tasty as it was beautiful. But, I did not know one could bake with it. That is, until a friend of mine, served up a thick, lovely slice of what she called breakfast bread. Shot through with flecks of green tea and drizzled with maple syrup (a hot commodity here in Japan if ever there was one) it was a softly sweet bread that had me asking for the recipe while my mouth was still half full. The cookbook, Rice Cooker Cooking by Misato Hamada, turned out to be even more enticing. Everything in the book - desserts, soups, noodle dishes, vegetables, multiple course meals - is cooked in a rice cooker. The multiple course meals requi

Kimchi Back in the Bathtub

Last year a friend taught us how to make kimchi for the first time. The haksai (Chinese cabbage) was finishing up in the farmer's field, and as usual we were pressed for time. We spent a late night chopping cabbage, carrots, komatsuna, and daikon only to massage them by hand with salt, garlic, ginger, and crushed red peppers until the skin on our arms tingled. Then it fermented (and overflowed a bit, hence the time in the bathtub) for about a week before our munching commenced. Seeing haksai available again at a nearby vegetable stand , I decided to give it a go on my own this year. There's plenty of komatsuna rolling in these days, along with carrots, daikon, and other assorted vegetables that usually end up in our salad . Inspired as well by the large amounts of fresh ginger available at stalls and farmer's markets of late as well as my own balcony and garden harvest of hot peppers , it seemed like the time was ripe. Late November Friday Night Kimchi 2 heads of haksa

Tokyo Garden Update: Late Fall

It's hard to believe December is already here. Not only are the winter crops all in at the farm, but harvest is going in earnest. Two crops of greens - shungiku and santosai - are already finished. The arugula is just about done, and we harvested the first of the wasabina this past Tuesday. The broccoli and cabbage are taking their own sweet time to fill out as needed, but I'm happy to wait. Komatsuna rolls in daily to fill our cart twice over and my salad bowl multiple times thereafter. Kabu and daikon are jumping on the bandwagon, too, so I've got no complaints. I should turn green with all the leaves I'm eating these days. My own garden , is a slightly different story. Most of my own seeds and seedlings went in a bit late or sporadically. Our vacations and traveling with multiple rounds of guests meant that I devoted any free time at the farm to the farmers and their crops. My theory is that I don't attempt to make a living from my garden, so their fields

Yacon Update: Closing in on a Harvest Date

Ever since receiving the yacon seedlings earlier this spring , I really haven't known what to expect. I've had some good guidance from Rhizowen Radix on what to do and what to expect, but mostly I've been along for the ride. I mulched them during summer's ever-increasing heat, and gave them regular sips of water and hoped for their survival. Some shriveling of their soft, velvety leaves did occur, but they hung on through the worst of it. As the weather turned cooler and the days shorter, the yacon seemed to embrace the change as much as me. We both seem to drink in the cold breezes and glowing days with gusto, and we both stand taller than ever now that the burden of summer's heat is lifted. Truly, I'm not being overly dramatic. My farmers compare the heat of this past summer with India. Records highs were set, and crops all across the country were lost because of it and the simultaneous drought. On our own farm, we lost carrots, sweet potatoes, and a lat

Our House Salad

All this talk about salads, eating greens and fresh vegetables, farmers markets , as well as the inspiration my front balcony garden gave me this past Sunday to tidy the back one, made me realize I ought to post a photo of one of our typical house salads. Granted, I made this particular one to celebrate Thanksgiving at a friends house, but this is truly what we eat at least two meals a day. The purple carrots aren't in there, but a variety of purple daikon is along with some purple karashina that isn't visible. Kabu, arugula, red radish, komatsuna, and a few chrysanthemum greens that didn't get turned into our favorite dish are jumbled together with the very last basil, some parsley, and bergamont. Calendula and violas add some more color, and a sprinkling of sesame seeds give it a little extra crunch. (I don't believe in lettuce, so it's never included in these creations of ours. Well, unless the farmers give me some of their's, but that'

Serving Up Purple Carrot Greens

A friend once observed that I have an almost absurd penchant for purple vegetables. Purple cabbage is (or at least was in America) a regular ingredient in our salads. Beets are a favorite in any way, shape, or form, although beet caviar remains my favorite version. Purple basil - also known as Opal - has wound it's way into my garden or flowerpots regularly, and the purple bloom of bergamont is rather tasty, too. So, it's no surprise that on a visit to the Ebisu Farmer's Market last weekend that when I spotted a display of purple carrots I veritably dashed over for a closer look. So dark they almost looked black, they stood in stark contrast to their lush green tops. Their orange neighbor carrots seemed rather dull in comparison. A more earthy taste than their orange counterparts, it was their appearance upon slicing that really took my breath away: a center burst of white surrounded by deep purple. According to The Carrot Museum website , the first known cultivated

Front Balcony Garden in the Fall

Since moving to Tokyo nearly two years ago, I've had to relearn some things about growing in pots. It's been challenging to make the shift from garden beds to a series of pots of all sizes squished here and there on our balconies and windowsills, but I've enjoyed it. Many of the things I thought only of as summer herbs or vegetables in Michigan are here, in turn, happier in the cooler fall and winter days. (There's some experimental kale settled in the garden , and on the balconies I've added in some cilantro and parsley to see what will happen.) My pots are now full of chrysanthemums blooming purple and gold, while a series of violas, a.k.a. Johnny-Jump-Ups turn their smiley little faces to the sun. Their yellow and blue and purple and gold blooms make a cheerful addition to our salads, as well, which is again a pleasant surprise. In Michigan, salad flowers are only a summer pleasure. Here, it seems, they may just be a fall and winter one. Parsley a

Itagawa Farmer's Market

During our our trip to Nikko we stayed at Zen Hostel - a reformed onsen tucked up along a river on the outskirts of Nikko city - where we found good food and beautiful scenery. I'll confess, though, that I chose it not just for its reasonable rates that included what sounded like (and was!) a tasty breakfast, but because the website mentioned making its food with ingredients bought at a local market. (As I've said before, I'm addicted .) I hopped in the car with our host one morning, and we made our way to the Itagawa Farmer's Market. Open six days a week from roughly 6am until about 4pm, the market offers all the fixings one might need for a single meal or for a week. Standard vegetable offerings included daikon , three kinds of winter squash, four kinds of mushrooms, sweet potatoes, onions (long and regular), chinese cabbage, multiple varieties of lettuce, and sweet green peppers. (The summer vegetables made their way here from the

End of the Morning Glories

On my back balcony I've had a small yet lovely conflagration of morning glories . The leaves and flowers seemed to fill and absorb a whole section with green and purple. While they didn't create much shade for our kitchen (too far over to be effective) they did successfully shade the potted kale and made an otherwise nondescript space enticing for morning coffee. So, with gratitude and a touch of sadness I'm preparing to take them down and compost them . I'll save some seeds back and maybe add them to our green curtain mix for next summer. Meanwhile, I'll also freshen the dirt in the pots and perhaps set out some cilantro, parsley, calendula, and violas for our winter salads.

Nira Seed Collecting

Sunshine and pleasant temperatures enticed me out to the garden this morning. Our latest round of visitors left late this week, and so we're working on catching up on this and that. I'd made it to the farm to work a few times each week, but only to the garden to drop off compost . The west bed, as I've mentioned before , is where I put perennial flowers and herbs, and where I'm experimenting a bit with building up the soil . I'd let some of my nira go to flower earlier in the season as the blooms were too pretty to not enjoy. In the back of my mind, too, was the idea that perhaps I might gather up some of the seeds for next year and for sharing.* That bright snap of garlic flavor makes it a popular ingredient in Asian dishes from Japan to China to Korea and even Thailand. It works wonders in soup, salad, and miso, and I want to make sure it's around come spring. (I've heard they make a great addition to kimchi , too!) I snipped off the see

More Bouquets in Unlikely Places

Last week while visiting Nikko I found this lovely little bouquet in one of the restrooms. Less surprising perhaps than those spotted at a highway rest stop on the way to Hakuba (it is a World Heritage Sight, after all), I was still pleasantly taken aback. On it's own the restroom was pleasant - tidy and well lit with soap - but the flowers softened the institutional edge, and made me grateful to whoever took the time to pick, arrange, and put them there. There were no flowers in the nearby garden - just trees with leaves running from green to red to gold to orange - so these were brought in specifically for this purpose. Another simple thing that transformed a space!

Balcony Garden Visitor and Biodiversity

While out checking on my morning glories and doing a general tour of the balcony plants with a cup of coffee, I spotted this very cool butterfly (or moth). I've got a volunteer tomato plant that is roaming about near the morning glories, and it took me some moments to notice his (or her) camouflaged self. (Clearly, it's time to start learning the names of my flying and crawling neighbors .) It's a real pleasure to find more wildlife on the balcony , and it reminds me of one of the many reasons I love growing things. Growing my food is easily my number one reason for having plants on the balcony as well as in the garden , but flowers and herbs are just as important to me . A garden (or a farm, for that matter) benefits from the beauty of blooms of all types and assorted leafy matter. Beneficial insects - pollinators and predators alike - settle in the leafy spots for the little buffet those blooms create, and any pests that settle on nearby crops. Supporting such bi

Thinned Daikon or Bathing Beauties

I picked these up at one of the nearby farms at their little vegetable stall . We've done our thinning ( mabiki ) of the daikons already at the farm, and we finished half of the kabu field on Friday. We ate the leaves in salad and sprinkled over our miso , and the roots got finely chopped in any assortment of salads, too. The daikon is normally a mild-mannered member of the radish family, but these packed quite a pungent punch. (I am a fan of alliteration as well as farmer's markets .) If they maintain this kind of flavor as they get larger, they should be a spicy addition to our winter dishe s !