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Showing posts from November, 2010

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 !