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Showing posts from June, 2011

Praying Mantis Newborn

What blew away the great ocean views and came to rival the nashi orchards and even the coolest vegetable stand in the village was the discovery of a most recently hatched praying mantis . As we snacked on takenoko and shallots dipped in miso , one of the other guests called excitedly from the deck. We tore ourselves away from the great food to find this little guy dangling from the egg case until moments before he called home. Despite his miniscule size and seemingly precarious position, he proved quite nimble within moments and prepared for battle if we came too close.

Shallots Dipped in Miso

Other than the new recipe for takenoko I gleaned from Atsuko while visiting Chiba was one for shallots. It seems that alliums in general are coming to the forefront of the vegetable stand these days, and with good reason. The rainy season is upon us and for any root crop that relies on drying this is not the best time. There are occasional days where the sun peeks out and hints rather fiercely at what is to come in the months ahead, but mostly the days are damp and gray. It's actually nearly perfect weather for harvesting or working in the fields, and in its way quite pleasant. The challenge it seems to me for alliums or other crops that require drying is to time planting so that harvest occurs either just before or shortly after tsuyu (rainy season) begins. So it was perhaps no surprise that the vegetable stands we saw were full of onions, potatoes, and shallots. Shallots were not what I had in mind when I spotted the bags one of the vendors (picture

Ichinomiya's Well Stocked Vegetable Vendors

The takenoko for our Chiba adventure this past weekend came from one of a number of vegetable vendors we found while cruising about on Saturday morning. Ichinomiya sits right on the coast and is full of farms. Rice fields and pear orchards abound, and we found no shortage of other seasonal favorites, too: edamame , tomatoes , potatoes , shallots, green beans , eggplants, and more. The first vegetable stand we stopped turned out to be my favorite of the day. Others were lovely, but this one with it's fanciful decorations and a view of the big vegetable plot just behind charmed us all. I am not sure if I liked the vegetables for the stand or the stand for the vegetables, if you know what I mean. The second stand was just a table with an umbrella and a cash box. Nothing fancy happening here, but the onions and potatoes were fat and lovely...just the way I like them and perfect for making Maan's potato salad ! Our final vegetable stop for the d

New Takenoko Recipe

We just returned from a quick weekend trip to Chiba with a small group of friends. Just north of Tokyo, the prefecture is known for both farming and surfing, and we were able to taste a bit of both this weekend. (This is the same place where we met the motorcycle-vegetable-delivering-grandmother last year.) A lazy morning with coffee on the deck while birds and butterflies filled the air around us was followed by a pleasant bike ride along the river to the village and through valleys filled with rice fields and pear orchards. Everything seems to be in fruit, flower, and leafing out like mad. The rainy season must feel like heaven for these plants, and they show their pleasure in no uncertain terms of green. And as we biked we came across a nice handful of vegetable stands offering up their seasonal wares of edamame , tomatoes , potatoes, onions, and cucumbers . Vegetable otaku that I am I couldn't resist stopping to check each one out, and we therefore came away with quite a se

Sunday Reading, June 26th

Only a desire to not overwhelm folks with information kept me from making this list longer. What a great bundle of stuff popped up this week! This article about natural and organic farming in Japan and the supplemental blog post offer up some more good information on how farmers are thinking about radiation on their crops and land. (Shameless marketing: And here's my piece about a small tea grower in Saitama and how they're affected by radiation from Daiichi .) This post at Shots, NPR's health blog , is chock full of good links about pesticides found on fruits and vegetables. It also includes updated lists of produce highest and lowest amounts, which alone makes it worth visiting. (The report in question is one I referenced earlier this month for good reading , by the way.) For those living in Japan, planning to visit or who just enjoy perusing great blogs about food (from the growing to the preparing to the eating) then Shizouka Gourmet's expanded list of foo

Tokyo's Farmers Markets: June 25th and 26th

It's hard to believe it's already the last weekend in June . Consolation for the rapid passage of time and therefore the quick succession of fantastic vegetables available? A great round of venues in which to visit, gather, and learn how to cook those vegetables ! Earthday Market Sunday, June 26 th 10am to 4pm, Rain or shine! Yoyogi Park Elms All organic and fair trade all the time. Best place to ride a train to just to buy eggs. I won't be able to make it this month, but I expect it will be amazing as always! Roppongi Farmer's Market Saturday, June 25 th 10am to 2pm Kinshicho Farmer's Market Saturday and Sunday 11am to 5pm Got a great farmer's market in your area of Tokyo or elsewhere in Japan? I'm always on the lookout and glad to share news of them or photos. Feel free to drop me a note with some basic information, and I'll add it to the list here! Photo: Kobayashi Farm and their groovy purple, white, and orange carrots at the June Earth Da

Saitama Tea Farm Post Up!

A summary of our visit to a friend's chabatake (tea farm) in Saitama is up and ready for reading over at the Real Time Farms blog . While the farm is not the sole source of their income, it is undoubtedly a treasured family place. Like so many others, the family voluntarily decided not to sell this year's crop, focusing instead on getting ready for next year's harvest. The photo here is from the day we shared with the family in Saitama. Despite the fact that we were the visitors, in true Japanese fashion, they gave us a few small gifts. One of these, of course, was some of their tea. This was the note attached to the packet.

Edamame Season Underway

Late last year the farmer's finished building three small greenhouses just south of what was then the chestnut orchard . Fairly simple affairs made of veneer and metal framing in comparison to their much larger and electronically-thermostated cousins right next door, these little houses proved cozy enough through the later winter months to be a good home for edamame. Perhaps one of the quintessential Japanese foods, edamame are delightfully simple to prepare and wonderfully delicious. On the menu at every izakaya and served up almost without asking when in season, their salty selves are a perfect companion with beer. I revel in the additional fact that they are relatively healthy (off-setting the unhealthy bits of beer), and the shells make good compost fixings. Edamame (soy beans) are also the same bean (daizu) that miso and soy sauce are made from. Theoretically, I could use the beans I'm growing now in my garden (and mostly imagining with beer) to make either of those, tof

Sunday Reading, June 19th

Once again, it's been a good week for reading about everything from gardening to farming to climate change to nuclear reactors. My head's in a whirl, but here's a few items I thought worth sharing. This article from Life on the Balcony on supporting pollinators on the balcony gives some great flower ideas as well as general information on why people should care about helping our little buzzing friends. It's their handiwork, after all, that brings about the food we love to eat. And here's a wonderful piece from back home in Michigan about something we really love to eat and garlic's little secret: scapes. Long and in two parts, these two articles by Tom Philpott before he moved from Grist to Mother Jones about food and place are, as always, deeply thought-provoking. I'd recommend settling in with a coffee now before beginning them. The second part includes beer, which lightens the mood some from the first. Swinging back around to this si

Tokyo Farmer's Markets: June 18th and 19th

The rainy season appears to be in full swing judging by the pool of water under the raincoat hanging in the hallway, but that should be no deterrent to exploring some of the best the city has to offer in terms of fruits, vegetables, and farmer's markets . What better way to celebrate Father's Day than with some of summer's finest such as edamame, cucumbers , tomatoes , or eggplants? (While it's unlikely you'll find strawberries now, you will find Totokawa's tasty jams - pictured here- at the Earth Day Market next weekend, though! Full disclosure: I just really like their jam and the free samples.) Ebisu Farmers Market Sunday, June 19th 11am to 5pm Kichijoji Farmers Market Saturday, June 18th and Sunday, June 19th 11am to 5pm Akasaka Farmers Market Every Saturday and Sunday in June 11am to 5pm Roppongi Farmers Market Every Saturday in June 10am to 2pm Kinshicho Farmers Market Every Saturday and Sunday in June 11am to 5pm Got a favorite farmer's marke

Sunday Reading, June 12

There's been a bounty of good reading of late, and so this week's round-up of some of my favorites is a bit longer. Gardening, farming, earthquake aftermath, food, and even a little poetry for good measure. Gardening and Farming Horticulture Basics: Using Canopies This article from Beginning Farmers (full disclosure: I write for them periodically) offers some good basic information on using canopies/row covers in the garden and on the farm. We use them to great effect on the farm here in Tokyo, too, for everything from pest protection to creating a mini-greenhouse effect that speeds up growth or protects from the chill. Eating from the Subsidy Garden Picked up from the Rodale Institute who picked it up from Kitchen Gardeners International (full disclosure: both organizations I'd LOVE to write for), the graphic shows the White House Garden as it is and what it would look like if it were planted with the agriculturally subsidized crops. Maybe it shows us how much corn a

Tokyo Farmer's Markets: June 11th and 12th

As the weather warms and the rainy season continues, head on out for some alternative vegetable fun this weekend in Tokyo. Markets abound all over the city this month making excellent snack stops while out touring or simply tromping about. Akasaka Farmer's Market Every Saturday and Sunday in June 11am to 5pm Roppongi Farmer's Market Every Saturday in June 10am to 2pm Kinshicho Farmer's Market Every Saturday and Sunday in June 11am to 5pm United Nations University Farmer's Market Every Saturday* and Sunday 10am to 4pm *Third Saturday of each month they rock out until 8pm with the veg!

Mulberries: Not Just for Silkworms

Spring is giving way to Summer these days, and so many of the blossoms from May are turning to fruit . One great example are the mulberry trees dotting our neighborhood and country by-ways. In Michigan we harvested them from a trees at relatives and friends homes, and I tossed them in with whatever jam bubbled on the stove . Here so far, I'm just nibbling them when out for a walk. What's in season for foraging where you are?

Tatami Mat Mulch

While some weeds are my favorite garden volunteers , there are times when I don't appreciate them. Last summer, for example, when we returned from Hokkaido I was greeted by a garden nearly hidden in tall weeds. Somehow despite the heat and drought they managed to thrive. Sheltered in part by my rambling squash vines , I'm sure, they resulted in more than a few hours in the hot sun removing them. And more than a little embarrassment, as the farmers keep an incredibly tidy farm and my garden is definitely...different. An alternative solution to more black plastic mulch, hand-weeding, and periodic chemical spraying presented itself one day when I chose an alternate route for running errands. A number of farms dot our area of Tokyo, and those lying to our east are still relatively unknown to me. Exploring almost always results in finding a new vegetable stand or a lovely farm tucked just behind the main roads or adjacent to an apartment building. It was while toodling along on th

First Harvest of the Season and a Secret Ingredient

Pictured here is one of the reasons I absolutely love working at the farm. I love vegetables , and I especially love growing them; however, what I really love about this particular cabbage, bundle of eggplants, and three zucchini is what put them on my kitchen counter: the farmers. Without their generosity and patience, there would be no garden , no dirty socks leaving footprints in the entrance hall, no learning the best way to harvest a daikon. There would be no ever-growing list of farm and food vocabulary, no eating bento lunch under the aki momo , and there would never have been blueberry jam . No sushi making lesson , and no Brandywine tomatoes , either. Most of all, there would be no friendship. It is their tradition, and now mine, to share the first of the harvest with each other. Granted, they don't work in my garden often, but without them I wouldn't have a garden to putter in or aphids to complain about . (Yes, they're back.) So, as they seasons ro

Saitama Tea Farm Visit

We had the great good fortune to visit a friend's tea farm or chabatake this past weekend. Small growers just over the border from Tokyo in the mountains of Saitama -ken, they are concerned about traces of radiation found on this year's harvest. Standing in the fields just below the farmhouse in the sunshine, it's hard to believe there could be any problems other than the deer and monkey's that eat everything, apparently, except tea bushes. (Readers with deer problems should thank their lucky stars they don't also have to worry about clever monkeys with no compunction about using their opposable thumbs to dig up crops and gardens.) I'll be writing up the trip in more detail soon at another blog, but wanted to share a photo or two as it was such an extraordinary day. We weren't allowed to help with any of the work, so we took advantage of the opportunity to explore, nap, pepper the family with questions in our bad Japanese, and simply soak in the plac

Sunday Reading

A weekly round-up of a few things here and there that I thought worthy of sharing. Grow Your Own Cocktail Garden A gardening theme new to me, but brilliant for it's new twist on the gardening mantra "Grow what you like to eat." It got me to thinking there must be a million garden theme possibilities out there. Mine might be jam or pickles, although I think growing a mix of perennial and annual herbs for tea fixings would be fun, too. Or how about one focused on soap or candle making? Are You Ready for More? The above cocktails might be required accompaniment for this article, which offers a sobering assessment of America's preparedness for the coming (and possibly just beginning?) onslaught of weather changes thanks to global warming. Gardening Books I would be remiss to not list the New York Times Book Review of gardening books for the season. As always wonderfully written the article has me itching to pounce on nearly all of them, especially The Conscientious Gar

Cucumber Trellis: The Scoop

Cucumbers are this years experimental crop. In years past, the farmers have not had much luck with the C ucurbitaceae family. Squash and watermelon succumbed to powdery mildew, and cucumber apparently has been a particular challenge for generations. Humidity and drought, disease, and the occasional roaming oni (a ghost that seems to enjoy eating the flowers before we get nary a bite) bear the blame. This year, though, with well-prepared soil, crossed fingers, and some friendly thoughts for the neighborhood oni we put in a single row. Given the size of the farm - large by urban standards but small by country ones - the farmers like others in the area make good use of trellis' and poles for every crop. Growing vertically means more space, and can lead to healthier plants. Disease and critters that hang out at ground level struggle to make the journey upward where they meet wind, sun, and rain that can effectively weakens or destroy them. Trellising can

Tokyo's Farmers Markets: June

The rainy season is underway, but that doesn't mean any shortage of markets around the city. Come find seasonal favorites like ume or a handful of growers offering an early taste of summer favorites like tomatoes or sweet corn! Ebisu Farmers Market Sunday, June 5th and Sunday, June 19th 11am to 5pm Another fun farmers market in an area chock full of things to do. After picking up a daikon and perhaps some purple carrots for dinner , head on over to Afuri Ramen for a bowl of their signature yuzu dish! Kichijoji Market Saturday, June 18th and June 19th 11am to 5pm We visited this market last month for the first time , and found it a great alternative in one of Tokyo's hippest spots. Earthday Market Sunday, June 26th 10am to 4pm Rain or shine! Yoyogi Park Elms Always worth the trip, this market offers up only organic and fair trade fruits, vegetables, and other goods in such a fun way that it's worth a rather long train ride on your day off. I'm planning to go again

Bean Blossoms

One of the summer crops most delightful and best kept secrets are their flowers. While it's easy for the mind to skip from seed to fruit, the first flower that gives a an early taste of pleasure to the gardener or farmer. Eggplant's lavender blossoms with their yellow pinpoint centers are almost pretty enough to raise on their own. Tucked under the signature purple tinted leaves and deep colored stems, it becomes a breathtaking plant that happens to produce a tasty and versatile vegetable. Similarly, a flowering potato offers up a handful of pretty little blossoms in white or purple, depending on the variety below, to signal the arrival of the first little tubers. Tomatoes, it must be said, offer a rather nondescript bloom; however, it could be argued that the beauty of its flower lies in the near magical formation over the course of days of a fruit multiple times its size. This year, the surprise bloom for me belongs to the bean. My daily walk to the garden takes me past th

Kichijoji Farmer's Market

I try to visit a few farmer's markets each month. Lately, most of them are here in Tokyo, but I have had the pleasure to visit a few in Osaka , Hida Takayama , and Nikko . In February, I managed despite my crutches and the protests to stop in at the Dane County Farmer's Market . It's always fun, and a bit addictive. May took me to a market just down the tracks - literally two stops east of where we live - to visit Kichijoji's monthly market . (You can read the details of what we found over at Eco+ Waza .) While I would have preferred seeing more Tokyo area farmers, I found plenty of great people sharing good stuff. Who knows where I'll be hunting for vegetables in June?