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Showing posts from January, 2011

Spring Crops in the Greenhouse

The daikon are finished and the field cleaned. The greens , with the exception of a few rows of komatsuna and spinach, are finished and tidied as well. The kabu went much too fast, and the cabbage finished up only last week. The broccoli is still coming along, and in my own garden I've still got a nice selection of winter greens and vegetables. (I tend to plant my own after we finish the fields , and despite two salads a day nearly every day plus rounds of blanching and freezing my harvest is a bit slower.) We've prepped two fields for spring planting already, and within the next few weeks I'm sure I'll learn where the tomatoes, eggplants and beans will land this year. The plum trees are decked with blossoms , and birds seem to be everywhere doing what birds (and bees, so I hear) do in the spring. And sure enough, it's spring in the greenhouse. The first planting of lettuce seedlings are well sprouted, and the second set is just starting to stretch its futaba

Rice in the Mail

One of the first things we did when we came to Japan was take a trip with One Life Japan . I'd connected with them while still in the States because their website was one of the few in offering information in English related to farming and gardening in Japan. I've since found a handful of others, but the blog of their adventures in rural Japan remains a favorite. After years of living and working in Tokyo, Kevin and Tomoe transitioned to a country hamlet to farm organically and work on defining for themselves what it means to live sustainably. (You can follow along with their adventures here or go up for a working vacation that will knock your socks off.) On our first excursion we helped rethatch an old farmhouse and prepare their rice field for planting. I love rice, and always have. Standing in their then dry tambo was a thrill I can't even describe. I wanted to know everything and do everything. It was a fantastic and eye-opening trip, and got our own ad

Book Review: The Alternative Kitchen Garden

Recently on Twitter , You Grow Girl asked for thoughts on getting your gardening mojo back. Seeing that took me back to my early gardening days when I was just starting to dig in the soil and see for myself what all the fuss was about. We'd recently moved into an old farmhouse in Michigan, and to me the yard looked like a blank slate. There was no vegetable garden, but I slipped one in along a fence line and planted the usual suspects: tomatoes, beans, basil, and peppers. I sat out next to the garden just watching the plants grow, the sun set, and the barn swallows come around while our cat napped in the tall grass near the edge. ( We've never been big on mowing .) I took notes on everything and read every book my husband's uncle would lend me, and then some. It was great. But, it all felt a bit standard. Tidy rows of vegetables with a few flowers and herbs were all very nice, but it seemed a little...boring. Maybe it was too tidy and orderly for my tas

A Good Time for Drying Daikon

While out walking one evening, I spotted these strips of daikon drying at nearby farm. Daikon season is slowly but surely coming to a close ( ours at the farm are all gone and the field is cleaned up in preparation for its next incarnation), and drying is one of the surefire ways to preserve the vegetable for later use. We've used these ourselves in miso and cut into smaller bits in our rice, too. This farm is just north of us, and despite being surrounded by city on almost every side (a nashi orchard and chestnut grove are near neighbors) it manages to retain some of its traditional rhythms like this one. Winter is a great time for this as the air is so incredibly dry (hence the daily views of Mount Fuji), and so even thick fruits like kaki can be preserved in this way.

My Garden Dreams for 2011

Little by little the days become longer and longer, and even though my winter crops are still in the ground and still being harvested I'm beginning to turn a new season over in my mind. I'm thinking about some new things to grow, some new techniques to try, and things I hope to remember to do again. Things to Grow Scarlet Runner Beans - I spotted their lovely red blooms and lanky vines last summer in Hokkaido. After we came down from the mountains, we spent some time roaming the byways and bike paths of Asahikawa and Higashikawa. Full of market stands and everyday gardens I took loads and loads of photos, and bought almost as many loads of fruit and vegetables that our friends at Square One graciously ate with us. To be perfectly honest, I've no idea how they taste, but for those beautiful flowers I'm willing to give them a go. I also suspect they might make an interesting green curtain option. Black Beans - Some things are a little tricky to get her

Osaka Farmer's Market Serves Up More than Just Vegetables

We left behind the snowmen and morning markets of lovely Takayama to head south to Osaka to visit some good friends for a few days. Knowing my desire to meet vegetables and their farmers, they mentioned a small weekly market sponsored by a local non-profit. (Full disclosure: My friend works there.) My calendar was marked on the spot, and Wednesday morning found us at Osaka's Kamishingo station. Suisen Fukushikai provides child and adult daycare services for everyone in the community as well as the intellectually disabled. Started in 1956, the organization grew from a single building serving 40 children and their families to a multi-sight, multi-service group that offers vocational training, transportation services, elder care, and nutrition education. Concerns about food safety and nutrition, Suisen Fukushikai purchased farmland in nearby Tanba and began working with area farmers to grow the food they serve as well as provide outdoor opportunities for clients and

Plum Blossoms and Tiny Daffodils

One of the traditional "three friends of winter" , the plum blossom usually doesn't arrive until some time in February. Until then, plum blossoms are usually depicted using pink and white bits of paper or even colored mochi on bare branches. This year, though, what seems like somewhat unseasonably warm winter weather encouraged a plum tree at the farm to begin blossoming. The daffodils that line the wall behind the greenhouse are also standing tall these days, and just before New Year's C-Chan cut a few of each for me. The daffodils are now in the compost pile, but the plum branches continue to bloom on our windowsill.

Strange Fruit in Neighbor's Yard

Our neighbor has this beautiful massive fruit growing in his front garden. A landscaper by trade, he also happens to be our landlord. Whenever I see him out trimming behind our building or in the neighborhood I pepper him with questions to practice Japanese, but also to learn whatever possible about the plants and trees around us. I'd noticed the fruit pictured at left growing on his garden wall trailing just beneath a very nice rose, and asked about it. The stem is about as thick as my thumb with what look like rather viscious spines. The leaves look like what I consider the usual citrus: slightly oval, thick and a bit waxy, and dark green. It turns out, of course, that he doesn't know. I suspect, based on my observations and his description of it, that it is a pumelo . The skin is very thick and it apparently has loads of seeds. The taste of the fruit, though, is where his description varies from the standard for pumelo. He says it's intensely sour, where

Takayama's Morning Markets

While there are plenty of opportunities to sample local fare throughout Takayama's charming Edo -era streets, it still tastes best at a local farmer's market stall. A bitterly cold morning found us crunching our way along snow-dusted roads in this mountain village northwest of Tokyo to check out the area's two morning markets. Despite temperatures well below freezing, vendors set up early to greet us with a great assortment of pickled vegetables, homemade misos , dried beans, apples sweet and sour and somewhere in between, as well as a few things I'd never imagined I could ever want to eat or cook with. Jinya Mae Morning Market Only a small handful of vendors braved the cold in front of Takayama Jinya , an Edo -period government building now a museum. Perfectly positioned to attract tourists moving between the museum and Takayama's famous old town area , the market must be just electric in warmer weather. While the number of vendors was few, the selection of