Skip to main content

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 generation of his family to grow tea, I assume his knowledge is near encyclopedic), I also did a bit of research on my own to find more details than my limited language skills and his busy market table would allow. The general consensus seems to be that the seeds need to be kept moist and planted fairly quickly in order to remain viable. (Mine have not had the advantage of either of these things, so I'm a little concerned.) Some sources recommend scarification of the seeds, and other simply recommend soaking until the seeds crack. If the seeds float, they are not viable at all and should be composted. (Mine are floating just now, but I'm hopeful they'll sink. If that means they are still viable, I don't know.)

Despite learning yesterday that my hopes of home tea growing are sunk (the seed pods did not sink or crack or anything), I did manage to find the following links that were incredibly useful for growing from seed or cuttings.

Easily the best resource comes from The Field Alliance (formerly known as the Community IPM Programme), an organization working to keep farming a viable economic alternative in rural communities in Southeast Asia. Their Tea Eco-Guide gives detailed information on growing from seeds or cuttings as well as soil preparation. Arguably, it is more than the home patio grower needs, but it makes good reading and satisfied my desire for solid information.

The University of Florida Extension Service offered good information for the home grower as did Narien Tea Store. (I don't usually reference company sites, but their information about growing was some of the best I found.)


fer said…
I hope your seeds sprout! it must be great to have the change of growing green tea
I think it would be, too, Fer. The sad thing is the seeds didn't sprout or do anything. It's in my mind now though to check out our local nurseries to see if they have these plants, and maybe even a ginger plant or two. Happy New Year, too!

Popular posts from this blog

Finding Heirloom Seeds in Japan

Drying pods of heirloom Hutterite Soup Beans. Since moving to Japan eight years ago, one of my greatest challenges as a farmer-gardener has been to find heirloom or open-pollinated seeds. The majority of seeds available are not GMO (genetically modified organisms) as Japan, at this point, doesn't accept this material. Most seeds, though, are nearly all F1 varieties. Heirloom and F1 Varieties In plant breeding, F1 is the name given to the first generation of a cross between two true breeding parents. For example, if I decide to cross an Amish Paste Tomato with another heirloom variety tomato such as Emmy, in hopes of getting a gold paste tomato, the resulting generation of fruit is F1. In order to get that tomato of my culinary dreams, I'll need to choose members of that first generation that are headed in a direction I like - early ripening, medium-sized fruit, good taste - and save their seeds. I'll plant them and repeat the process again and again over time unti

Satoimo: One of Japan's Favorite Slimy Things

Satoimo in all their hairy glory. This post first appeared in slightly different form on Garden to Table as part of the 2012  Blogathon . The website has since moved on to the ether, but the post is still a good one. After all, people here are still eating satoimo on a daily basis, and many others are just seeing these little potato-like objects for the first time. Enjoy! Satoimo is one of Japan's odder vegetables. Under it's rough, slightly furry skin is white flesh that is a little bit slimy even raw, and with a gentle nutty flavor.* Baked, grilled, steamed with dashi, or deep-fried satoimo stands well on its own or paired up with other vegetables and meats in a wide variety of soups and stews . (The leaves are also edible.) Satoimo stores well, and like any root crop worth the effort, stocks are just running low on this household favorite as the farmers in my area of Tokyo get ready to put a new crop in the ground in May. I cannot say I was a fan of this l

Goma Ai Shingiku - Sesame and Chrysanthemum Greens

Last week I had the pleasure of helping some friends work in their parents garden not too far away. Tucked behind the house, the garden sits on a former house lot. When it came up for sale about five years ago, my friend's father jumped at the chance. Open land in Tokyo can be hard to find and expensive, but for a retired professional looking for a little spot to till in the city it was an opportunity to good to pass up. Now, it is a garden to envy. As we came through the gate rose, lily, and peony blooms greeted us with great shouts of color while rows of vegetables stood tidily at attention on the sunny center stage. Small fruit trees along with one of the biggest sansho trees I've seen yet stood quietly here and there. Near waist-high sweet corn, bushy young potato plants, cherry tomatoes, eggplants, and beans were preparing their summer fruits, while a handful of still quite luscious looking winter vegetables like komatsuna, mizuna, and kabu held one last ro