Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Squash Update

Last fall I wrote about the sad demise of our American pumpkin plants. No Jack-O-Lanterns for us that Halloween, but all was not lost. A little internet research in November revealed what my problem was - wrong squash family for this climate - and a little more research pointed me in the direction of some terrific heirloom varieties that would be happy growing in my Tokyo garden.

The next step was finding seeds. Surprisingly, it is a bit difficult to find them here in Japan. The standard kaboucha seeds were on every rack in every nursery, but not the heirloom varieities I wanted. Chirimen, Kikuza, Futsu and the rest were not to be found. (And believe me, I've spent a fair amount of time at the seed racks in local nurseries.) I did see some of these varieties beautifully displayed outside restaurants in Kyoto, which was heartening. (In the photo at the top of this post there's a stout Shishigatani behind the bowl of eggplants and to the right of the corn. A Kaboucha is in the box next to the yellow Spaghetti Squash.) The tradition there is to entice potential customers with the precooked wares, and then as ingredients are needed in the kitchen the staff picks what they want from the pile. Brilliant, if you ask me.

Kitazawa Seed Company offers a great selection of Asian vegetables, especially Japanese, and so sprouts of Chirimen and Shishigatani are just waking up on my window sill. I'll be moving them to the greenhouse at the farm shortly to offer a cozy space to encourage slightly faster growth before puting them out. The farmers, I think, are looking forward to sampling their flavors with me this fall, too.


Sue Dickman said...

Interesting post. I haven't heard of any of those kinds of squash except for kabucha, which I've grown occasionally here in Mass. The shishigatani is pretty funky looking! One thing I enjoyed about living in India was experimenting with the unfamiliar fruits and vegetables; I was mostly eating them, though. I wasn't able to grow more than houseplants, unfortunately. Is squash season the same there? (I'm thinking of this b/c in India, fresh pea season is basically January in north India because that's when it's cool enough for them to grow. Same with apples.)

Joan Lambert Bailey said...

Hi Sue,

Squash season is roughly the same. It's much hotter here in Tokyo, as you can imagine, so my American pumpkins weren't so pleased. Your question is right on, though, as it dawned on me today as I looked at bolting kale plants that perhaps I should reverse my thinking about them. They might be better as a winter green rather than a summer one.

I'd love to hear more about vegetables in North India!