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Showing posts from September, 2010

I See Winter Vegetables Everywhere

We finished preparing this field and two others like it for winter planting . We spread assorted manures and seaweed by hand, and then Takashi-san plowed it all in to achieve this lovely look. The daikon seeds from the first planting are already sprouting, and soon the seeds for kabu, karashina, komatsuna, and pak choi will follow suit. A dirty but good day.

Red Lycoris: A Japanese Favorite

Along with the tulip and crocus bulbs planted last week in the west wall bed I also put in three bulbs of Red Lycoris . This time of year the flowers can be seen everywhere, and in my quest to increase the color and texture of my garden it seemed like a brilliant idea to add them to the mix. They are not one of the seven fall flowers of Japan , but they're fast becoming a new favorite of mine. (Although, I will say I'm simply a fool for flowers so that's not so surprising.) I've been impressed so far by the lantanna and lavender with their staying power for color and texture, and wanted to build on that. Red Lycoris reminds me of Spider Flower (a.k.a. Cleome ) in it's bloom shape, but I like it's straight delicate stem more. I also like that's it's leaves will add pleasant green texture to the garden bed, too. I like the idea that folks strolling by find something nice to look at, too, and so I confess that I plant with an audience in mind.

Swallowtail Caterpillars Like Parsley

I swear that I've never seen a greater variety of butterflies in my life than I have in the nearly two years we have lived in Japan. (During our trip to Hokkaido I counted at least six different varieties while sitting in one spot for two hours.) Black, black and white, yellow, orange, black with blue, and ranging from about an inch to those that look like bats or small birds fluttering by. It's been another of the unexpected pleasures of living here. Last year these fat little fellows trimmed my fennel plants, and this year they've arrived to keep the parsley in the west wall bed in check. (Truth be told, they're straight up devouring it and we are parsley-less.) My minimal knowledge and experience with these creatures told me this could be something rather exciting. A short search for "black and yellow caterpillar" images has me believing they are swallowtails, but I'm not entirely sure if they are Old World Swallowtails or if they are Black Swallowt

Nira in Bloom and Stars in My Miso

I couldn't resist letting a few of my nira (Japanese garlic chives) go to flower. As I've mentioned before, I have felt a real dearth of color and vibrancy in the garden this year. The west bed where perennials and overflow plants go is also where I do some experimenting. Purchased on something of a whim this spring, I popped them in there and have been slowly savoring them for about two weeks. (The farmers report they are a main ingredient in gyoza, fried chinese pork dumplings that are tastier than should really be legal.) I still happily cut them for their tasty green leaves (visible below the blooms in the above photo) in salad or miso, and now I add the flowers to both as well. The blossoms look like floating stars, and have a pungent flavor all their own, too. What's better than pretty food? Eating it, of course!

Yacon Update

This spring I received a box full of goodness from a woman I met last fall at a Slow Business festival . Inside, much to my delight and surprise, were seeds for fusen and goya, along with Jerusalem Artichoke bulbs and yacon seedlings. Because of her kindness our green curtain was born, Jersulaem Artichoke grow on the balcony, and yacon stand in the garden . (I also had a fair amount of advice from Radix and a handful of other tuber fans in the blogosphere to help me get them happily settled.) Yacon, a tuber from South America, is increasing in popularity here in Japan. With a flavor and texture reminiscent of apples, it is an excellent addition to soup, salad, or a dish of sauteed vegetables. Planted in the west wall bed , they stand about three feet tall. (This photograph was taken in August, and they are taller and more lush now.) I've kept them well mulched with grassy weeds to help ease them through the unseemly heat of summer. Troubled a bit by the heat and drought, and a

Tulips and Crocus'

The bed that runs along the west side of the garden and at the base of a cement wall is where I tend to do experiment a bit. Perennial herbs like mint, oregano, sage, and lavender are here along with rhubarb and lantanna . The yacon are also planted here where I can monitor their growth and dig up the tubers (whenever that may be) without disrupting the cycle of planting and harvest in the other beds. Home to the plants that come home with me after a splurge at the nursery, as well as the lasagna bed and the compost bin , the bed is a mosaic of ideas, textures, and colors. It's also where I see toads, salamanders, and an occasional cat. I love it. It seemed a logical choice then to plant a handful of bulbs here. I realize after this year's utilitarian style garden that I need flowers and a dash of chaos almost as much as I need vegetables and herbs. The tidiness of this year's garden proved uninspiring to me (as did the unseemly heat and ensuing drought), and so I'

A Clean Slate

This morning Takashi - san plowed in the compost, seaweed, wood ash, eggshells, chicken manure, and bacteria spread yesterday to boost the garden soil. Next week I hope to do a bit of planting, and work on preparing the garlic bed. Here's my current list of winter vegetables: Komatsuna Shungiku Karashina Kabu Broccoli Cabbage Spinach Daikon Chinese cabbage Kale Beets Swiss Chard Garlic The first seven I grew last year , and savored every last morsel. I'm quite excited to grow them again, and plan to do a bit of blanching and freezing in preparation for the somewhat greens bleak summer months. The next four - Chinese cabbage, kale, beets, and swiss chard - I have either not grown on my own or only grown as summer vegetables. As I've mentioned before , I'm going to experiment with them as winter vegetables. I think the greens will be particularly happy and should be relatively bug free due to the cold temperatures. Garlic I have grown, and even though t

A Good Month for Visiting

This morning we are at long last getting some much needed rain and some very welcome cooler weather. Old friends who arrived yesterday must have brought it with them, and we're glad their touring days with us will be comfortable, albeit a bit damp. That said, I've snuck in some time at the farm and garden and computer, but I've only got very rough drafts about our trip to Hakuba . And a recipe for squash butter is in the works while my recently harvested squash wait patiently on the counter. And the tulip and crocus bulbs are in the garden, but a small handful are waiting to be potted for the balcony gardens, too. And I've got a lovely bunch of seeds waiting to be set in the garden for winter eating, too. How is it possible there is so many wonderful and fun things to do everywhere I turn? Meanwhile, though, we'll be off touring in the city and surrounding areas. I'll post as I can - promise!

Savoring the Squash Harvest

Before we left for our trip to Hakuba , I harvested a few of our coveted squash. Both varieties turned out fairly well , although I do suspect I left them on the vine a tad too long. Most photos of the final product feature a dark green or grey fruit while mine are orange in hue. The advice I got was to wait until the stems turned gray. (I was a bit impatient, so even this orange beauty here was picked perhaps too early for that particular indicator.) Reminiscent of the butternut, also a cucurbits moschata , the skin on these does not cook up as nicely as it does on the average kaboucha or buttercup. Our curry the other night was tasty except for the skin, so in the dish below I peeled the leftover half before cooking. A tedious task that I attempt to avoid at almost all costs it proved worth the effort in the end. While it's still a bit hot for miso I decided that after nearly ten days of eating out a simple home-cooked meal was in order. A big salad, rice, and

Hiking in the Japan Alps: Getting There

We returned early from the Japan Alps due to the typhoon, but needed to finish up our visit with a good friend before I could sit down to write. He's back home now, and after a morning sweating it at the farm I'm back at the computer. Our trip was fantastic, although the trails were at times harrowing and hair-raising. We didn't know about the typhoon until we got to the second hut, and then there were the chains on the trails and the unstable rock field we crossed. (The copious amounts of what looked remarkably like bear scat on the trail seemed tame in comparison.) Beautiful, but the experience is slightly overshadowed by the fact that I spent large chunks being terrified. I'm glad to be home in Tokyo getting dirty on level ground again. Getting there As we did for our trip to Kawaguchiko , we took a bus from Shinjuku directly to Hakuba . (We took the same bus this past March, a trip which I'll write up later when folks are itching

Hiking in the Japan Alps

We're taking another trip. We're off to Hakuba to hike in the Japan Alps for a few days, and so I won't be posting until we return. A good friend is visiting and hiking is his thing, so off we go! We'll be staying in mountain huts as we did in Hokkaido , but these won't be as small or as remote. The photos we've seen show gigantic things that look as though they ought to house a villain from a James Bond film. I promise to tell all when we return.

Squash ala Tokyo Farms

It seems every vegetable stand in our neighborhood and beyond is near to bursting with kaboucha, a.k.a. Japanese pumpkin . A nice little round green winter squash, kaboucha flesh is deep orange with a rich flavor comparable to buttercup. It is utterly delectable as tempura, in houtou udon , and just about any other dish one could imagine. While visiting the Weymiller's during our trip to Hokkaido we happened to be discussing vegetables, food, and gardening one evening. (Shocking, I know.) Toby mentioned a tiny restaurant in Niseko Station in Sapporo that served a fantastic squash salad. Describing it as similar to potato salad with a creamy sauce and only a few other ingredients, I was intrigued. Why not? It made perfect sense. Presented with the abundance of kaboucha (along with onions galore!) these days and the overwhelming heat, it seemed logical to devise a salad. Niseko Station Inspired Squash Salad 1 kaboucha, cut into bite size pieces 2 tablespoons olive oil 4 clov