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Showing posts from July, 2011

Tokyo Farmer's markets: July 30 and 31st

The last weekend in July is as chock full of fruit and vegetables as the first, so head on out to get some of the season's hottest picks: tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers , eggplant, and even some garlic ! Roppongi Hills Farmer's Market Saturday, July 30th 10am to 2pm Earth Day Market Sunday, July 31st 10am to 4pm United Nations University Farmers Market Saturday, July 30th and Sunday, July 31st 10am to 4pm Kinshicho Farmers Market Saturday, July 30th and Sunday, July 31st 11am to 5pm Photo: Chiba-san from Cosmo Farm hosts an array organic vegetables at Kinshicho Farmers Market. Where's your favorite place to find fresh vegetables and fruit? Give me a shout and we'll spread the word!

Atlas on a Bicycle: Fuji Fives Lakes Bike Touring Experiment

Our spontaneous trip last weekend to the Fuji Five Lakes area proved simply amazing. We had a great time bike-touring for the first-time, and are excited about upcoming plans to visit Hokkaido . This recent trip was a bit of a reprise of another we took early last spring , and was an experiment to see what it would be like to carry our world on our bikes while riding a bicycle. While a few adjustments need to be made, we think we may have a handle on a system that works for us. More details on the trip later, but I did want to share the photo here of a new friend I made while picnicking in Kawaguchiko. At the end of our ride we flopped on the grass by the lake to enjoy some sweet corn we'd bought from a roadside stand near Lake Saiko. We'd bought some the day before on our way to Lake Motsuko and loved it enough to stop again on the return. Apparently, this little fellow in the photo with me loves sweet corn, too. While I chomped away on one end, he took little

Beets Over at Attainable Sustainable

Even though I can't grow beets very easily here in Tokyo, I still love them and plant seeds in hope each season. And this guest post over at Attainable Sustainable tells a bit of the story of where some of the passion for this purple vegetable originated. Note : Internet problems at home mean posts are a bit less frequent at the moment. While we enjoy a certain lack of technology, we're also learning how much we depend on it!

Sunday Reading, July 24th

There was an absolute bevy of good reading I stumbled across this week, and so here are a few highlights. While searching for a beet photo I ran over to Frog Holler Farm's Frog Log and found this article remembering founder Ken King , one of the best people I've been lucky enough to know. I also ran across this fascinating entry at Dragonwood's blog (good friends growing just up the road from Frog Holler, in fact) about soaking and pre-sprouting seeds . As we plan a trip to England, I'm perusing different places to visit that a grower-market-goer like me would like to see. A Tweet from Get Growing UK pointed me in the direction of Growing Communities , a London organization bent on sorting out a sustainable food system. Their Saturday morning market at St. Paul's looks like it may make it onto the list of things to do! Get Growing also mentioned Project Dirt , a website that looks like a clearinghouse of information of things happening that ought to give me so

Tokyo Farmer's Markets: July 23rd and July 24th

The typhoon blew in some cooler weather making it a perfect opportunity to head down to a farmer's market . In season just now are edamame , tomatoes galore, potatoes by the dozen, eggplant, and perhaps a few last green beans . As for fruit look for peaches and those lovely red and yellow cherries, too! And do a little shopping for me. We're off to Kawaguchiko for a bit of biking and Mount Fuji spotting! Gyre Farmer's Market Saturday, July 23rd and Sunday, July 24th 11am to 5pm Roppongi Hills Farmer's Market Saturday, July 23rd 10am to 2pm United Nations University Farmers Market Saturday, July 23rd and Sunday, July 24th 10am to 4pm Kinshicho Farmer's Market Saturday, July 23rd and Sunday, July 24th 11am to 5pm A little side note: I visited this one last weekend and have a write-up in the works. Very nice little market with a good selection, and right in the heart of Tokyo to boot! Know of a market or cool vegetable vendor in your neck of the woods? Give me a

Popcorn Harvest Begins

Yesterday while putting down the last of the tatami and doing a general tidy of the Brandywines , I noticed some of the popcorn looked to be ready for harvest. Sure enough, a closer inspection of one of the smaller varieties I planted this year - Tom Thumb - showed it was indeed ready to be set to dry. Dried husks and a plant looking about as done with the heat as me were the signals I needed to take a peek. These little guys measure perhaps four or five centimeters total and come from plants that perhaps reach just over my knees. A cute little variety that might just be perfect for container growing if one loves popcorn but has only a balcony or veranda, the fat kernels from Tom Thumb provide good flavor, too. Laid out with the akashiso at the moment they should be dry in a couple weeks.

Side Effects of Umeboshi: Furikake

While this year's batch of umeboshi are dried and stored, I'm still working away at the shiso leaves. What I didn't know last year was that the red shiso ( aka shiso in Japanese a.k.a. perilla ) leaves that stew along with the ume (Japanese plums) also have a use. I knew the vinegar leavings made excellent quick pickles (daikon for sure and at the moment I'm experimenting with a few thin slices of zucchini since now is not daikon's time ), but the leaves were a mystery. I kept them for a bit, but then added them to the compost heap with feelings of regret. It didn't seem logical that this great salted edible should have no purpose, but I couldn't find information any where. What I learned upon visiting a farmer's market and talking with a vendor there selling ume jam and umeboshi (made by his mother and all organic) is that the leaves are indeed kept. Dried and then crushed they become furikake. Furikake , a garnish sprinkled on rice, com

Sunday Reading, July 17th

Charges were dropped against the woman growing vegetables in her front yard in Michigan , but it sounds like there are some pretty deep set ideas about what constitutes a proper front lawn. Freedom of speech, apparently, doesn't extend to the front yard or to your favorite vegetable. The only thing I might say against her is that she needs some mulch in those beds. Oak Park's city planners could perhaps use a visit from Fritz Haeg and Michael Pollan , Will Allen , Michelle Obama , or Novella Carpenter about the good a little bit of gardening can do. Growing your own food shouldn't just be for country folk. An interesting video about Japan's efforts to find alternative ways to keep cool this summer in light of calls for conservation that includes green curtains . This short but sweet little piece on bee-keeping versus finding ways to support research and producers is rather thought-provoking. Bees are pivotal, but not everyone may feel the need or desire to have t

SUN Grocery: Students of the Vegetable

As part of a continuing series of useful 'reprints' now being updated, this post features a student-led local grocery. I stumbled across them in Shinjuku on the way to class one day, and happily did a bit of shopping and chatting. This post first appeared at Greenz on October 22, 2010. As a locavore, it is a real pleasure to see vegetables appearing all around this metropolis we call home. A number of large farmers markets , a night market , and even a farmer-coop shop are signs of a growing local food movement. Yet, in my wildest local food dreams I never thought I'd see a stand selling fresh produce on a busy intersection in Shinjuku. A promotional event for SUN, a student-run grocery , the table showcased seasonal favorites such as chestnuts , mushrooms, nashi (Japanese pear), and squash along with fresh eggs, kaki (persimmon) and satoimo. Sourced from farms and orchards as close as Chiba and as far away as Nagano and Yamagata, the group seeks to encourage people not

Tokyo Farmer's Markets: July 16th and 17th

Hot times are sure to be had this weekend in Tokyo, and not the least of the coolest events to partake in are this month's farmer's markets . Take your pick of markets large and small on Saturday and Sunday with even a groovy night market thrown in for fun! See you there! Ebisu Farmers Market Sunday, July 17th 11am to 5pm Kichijoji Farmers Market Saturday, July 16th and Sunday, July 17th 11am to 5pm United Nations University Night Market Saturday, July 16th 8pm to Who Knows? United Nations University Market Saturday, July 16th and Sunday, July 17th 10am to 4pm Kinshicho Farmers Market Saturday, July 16th and Sunday, July 17th 11am to 5pm

Tatami Mat Mulch Not Just for Weeds

Time to be honest. When I put down the goza (old tatami mats) mulch in June I only had enough to cover half of the garden. A row and a half sat paved only with my good intentions to return to the tatami master for more. And to see the metaphor all the way through, those paths are now also paved with a boatload of weeds. Where there is tatami mat mulch the ground is clear of greenery, relatively cool and damp.(Not a speck of anything grows underneath.) Wherever the mulch isn't is dry, hard, and full of spirited weeds that don't easily succumb to pulling or even a good rousting with my little hand-held hoe. My task now that the rainy season is over and temperatures are steadily climbing is to clear the paths of as many weeds as possible and put down more mats. We leave for our annual trip to Hokkaido in a few weeks, and one of my many garden goals before we go is to have them all firmly in place before we go. The weeds that greeted me last year were shameful, and I won't f

Butterfly Party in the Lavender

There's a party in my garden, and the hot spot of choice these days is the lavender bush in the west wall bed . In full bloom, the butterflies - the white kind that look like fluttering stars and produce cabbage worms galore - literally flock to the bush. It is nearly as white as it is purple these days. Any pollinator favorites in your garden?

Green Curtain: There's Still Time

Summer's hot days are officially upon us, and that means not only that it's time to set the umeboshi to dry but to make sure fixing's for shade are in place. Calls for setsuden or conservation abound this summer, which is no small challenge given the searing heat and sun that is the norm. Already temperatures are leaping high along with the humidity, and all around us people are coming up with a fix or two to stay cool. My post about making your own green curtain is up at Eco+waza's website , and should help folks get started. And, if growing a curtain isn't an option, never fear. Here are a few more ideas! Bamboo shades, that cherry blossom viewing party sheet, or even a blue tarp can all make good impromptu awnings as the sun swings around. Closing up windows and curtains during the day (not air tight, mind you, but rather close) keeps the heat and light out, too. Like many of our neighbors, we then open things up at night to catch a breeze and views of the

Garlic Harvest

My first crop of garlic in Japan failed. A late planting paired with plastic mulch resulted in small or non-existent bulbs. It was a good lesson about the new climate I found myself in, though, and definitely not the last. Squash , kale , and beets have since then patiently suffered through my experiments in growing here, and slowly all of us (me and the aforementioned vegetables) are learning what we need in order to thrive here in Tokyo. Seed Garlic This time I started with seed garlic purchased at the Earth Day Market last fall. All organic and picture perfect with good flavor (we ate the other head), it seemed like good stock for growing, too. Last year I only put in seed garlic purchased at a big box store south of us about thirty minutes by bike, and part of me was concerned that possible poor quality there contributed to failure in the field. I did have some of this on hand again this year, and so a few cloves of it went into the ground for comparison. Garlic

Sunday Reading, July 10th

A bit all over the map as usual, here's a few picks from this week's reading. Strawberries Guardian: A Good Mulch is a very succinct and nice piece about the values of mulch, particularly as they pertain to strawberries. As the temperatures rise here in Tokyo and only half of my rows are lined with tatami mats, mulch is definitely on my mind, too. Ye Olde Kitchen Garden has been flying about on Twitter and other social media sites, but it's still worth mentioning. The perspective on how our tastes in food change and why is enough alone to merit a read. This story of a Michigan woman being severely penalized for growing vegetables in her front yard is sobering. Being penalized in a state suffering from a recession well before the rest of the country started down that path is absurd. Marion Nestle, one of the founding members of America's currently food movement, wrote this piece about how to shape food policy one forkful at a time . Many thanks to

Gyre Farmer's Market: More Than Fashionably Fresh

This post (now updated) first appeared at Greenz on November 18th, 2010 as I wandered about the city in search of fresh fruit and vegetables. A small market, Gyre finds itself calling one of the city's most fashionable areas home. Omotesando is, admittedly, not the first place one thinks of when shopping for fresh fruit and vegetables. Designer bags, watches, or glimpsing the latest fashion in action? Yes. Cauliflower, kaki, carrots and potatoes? Maybe not. Yet, fashionable locavores can find the season's top sellers of the edible and fresh variety rather easily. The Gyre Market - the seed, if you will, of the considerably larger UN University Market - is tiny and enticing. Opened just three years ago and recently remodeled, the shop keeps with its surrounds by being mildly boutique-y. Plain wooden "box" shelving gives a rustic feel reminiscent of the kinds of fruit and vegetable stores disappearing from the produce landscape. Track lighting literally

Tokyo Farmer's Markets: July 9th and 10th

As temperatures rise so, apparently, do the number of farmer's markets around town. Pack a shopping bag and hit the road to find great vegetables, fruit, and more to stock your pantry for the week and perhaps even find a culinary gift or two to boot. And without further ado, here's a round-up of Tokyo's July farmer's markets for your weekend planning! Roppongi Hills Farmer's Market 10am to 2pm Every Saturday this month, and if Google translate tells me the truth, there should be sheep and goats there, too! Shearing demonstrations at 11am and at 3pm. Just when you want to think about being warmer. Shinonome Earth Day Market Sunday, July 10th 9am to 2pm No sheep shearing at this one, but there will be art workshops for kids and plenty of great seasonal organic treats. A little out of the way, but well worth the journey. United Nations University Farmers Market 10am to 4pm Every Saturday and Sunday without fail, this market offers up a fantastic selection of seaso

Blooming Bergamont

One of the things I marvel at is the fact that I am, for all intents and purposes, an immigrant in a foreign country. Previously in America, I stood on the other side of that equation, and so my stance on such issues has always been as a person speaking within their own country. Even though both sides of my family came from Europe more than three generations ago, I feel a great affinity in some ways for those who chose to make similar journeys now. I can't but look at the faces of new immigrants from various parts of the world and think of my own ancestors and wonder at what drives a person to start life over in a strange land. My story, though, is a little different. We didn't come to Japan to escape political turmoil, war, or persecution. We didn't even necessarily come here to create a better life for ourselves. We came because a friend mentioned there were openings at his university and we suspected we were in a rut. (Or a mid-life crisis, depending on how

Keeping the Buzz Going after the Sake is Gone

One of the great surprises upon landing in Japan was the fact that public drinking (within reason, of course) is completely legal. I've seen women in kimonos sipping a cold beer on the train, and salarymen walking in a group down the street each holding some form of grown-up pop. There are, I'm sure, arguments for and against allowing such a thing, but here it seems to work. There are strict rules about drinking and driving as well as drinking and bicycling, which helps maintain a sort of balance. But this post isn't about Japan's alcohol consumption habits. Well, not directly, anyway. The other thing we discovered as a result is the sake cup. Since public consumption isn't illegal and because sake is so popular, one can purchase individual servings in either "drink box" form (complete with straw) or in the small glass container pictured here. The sake inside isn't of the highest quality, but it's still smoother than any I ever drank

Pat's Pesto Toast

My friend Pat lives on a sweet little lake where I imagine these days she's playing with her two grandchildren on the shore and contemplating what book to read next. Or what quilting pattern to begin. Or what sweater to knit. She's one of those types - good at everything she sets her hand to - and utterly charming to boot. I'm lucky to count her as a friend. And she's a great cook. I can't deny that one reason I lost 17 kilograms upon moving to Japan is that I wasn't sitting at Pat's table happily devouring the delicacies she placed in front of me. (To be clear, I'm not complaining. Pat's food and company are among the best I know, and I'm always glad to feast at her house.) She tries new recipes without hesitation, and then tweaks them to suit her cupboard holdings, taste preferences, and interests. I miss those long evenings spent sampling her latest concoction while telling stories, playing cards, and always laughing long and hard. So, of co

Something Blue: Balcony Blueberry Harvest

It only seemed appropriate on this Fourth of July to celebrate a little something blue. Since the demise of the blueberry patch at the farm earlier this spring in favor of more vegetable growing space (a land divide between siblings resulted in a slight change of layout) I decided we needed to have our own source. While this single potted plant will never match the output (at least three rounds of jam last year along with six freezer containers full) and beauty of those sixteen bushes, it will offer up a handful or two each season. Blueberries remind me of picking expeditions at home , my mother's pies, and sneaking a berry or two out of the freezer when she wasn't looking. That said, now I'm thinking I need another bush or two for our balcony garden. The yuzu tree could use a little more company, perhaps. Got a favorite edible growing in containers? Do tell. I'm looking for a few ideas for our two balconies, so please share your thoughts!

Sunday Reading, July 3rd

This week's compendium is all over the map (and includes a map!) of food, gardening, farming, radioactivity, and reflections on city living. It's all so connected - my ability to farm , garden , and subsequently harvest in an urban area in a country in a nuclear crisis - that the resulting avenues to explore are infinite. Here's a sampling of this week's literary wanderings. An interesting food map traces the paths of coffee, black pepper, and tomatoes, and the end of the short post poses a provoking question for locavores: What if people in 1500's Italy had rejected tomatoes as not being traditional or local enough? A lovely read about New York's quiet little corners that made me think of some of the places I love best in Tokyo is followed by this one from the same author about the 'music' of the city . As I listen to my neighbor sweeping in front of his house at 6:30am, I can relate to the author's point. A new blog I found thi

Size Doesn't Matter: Shinonome's Earth Day Market More Than Satisfies

This post first appeared at Greenz on October 25, 2010,and I've added a few links here and there to recipes or updated information. The Shinonome Market is being held again on Saturday, July 9th, and is just one of the many markets happening this month . This ought to whet the appetites of market goers but good! The Earth Day Market in Yoyogi Park is one of the monthly food events not to be missed if one is a fan of local, organic food . Fresh vegetables, amazing baked goods, tasty jams, miso, rice, and so much than one good sentence can hold can be found there. Yet, there are times when a vegetable adventure is also in order. This time we grabbed our shopping list and headed out to Shinonome's little Earth Day Market. Snuggled at the base of an amazing conglomeration of looming apartment buildings between the Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Big Sight, the tiny market did not disappoint. Ducking under the signature blue and white banner we found six vend

Tokyo's July Farmer's Markets

It's not official, but it feels like summer has arrived in full force. And Tokyo's farmer's markets seem to be meeting it head on with a cornucopia of opportunities for great seasonal produce! Roppongi Hills Farmer's Market Every Saturday in July On July 9th it looks like the growers will be joined by a handful of sheep and goats and there will be a shearing demonstration. Now, there's something you don't see every day in Tokyo, I must admit. 10am to 2pm Ebisu Farmer's Market Sunday, July 3rd and Sunday, July 17th 11am to 5pm Like the Kichijoji market, this is another nice market in one of Tokyo's fun spots. There's no shortage of good food and fun at the market, and it's compounded by the good food and fun in the neighborhood. Shinonome Canal Court Sunday, July 10th 9am to 2pm A charming off-shoot of the larger Earth Day Market, Shinonome is out of the way and tiny, but still lovely. An effort to bring organic produce to a different part of t