Friday, September 30, 2011

October Farmer's Markets

Where has September gone? Somewhere between Hokkaido and England the month disappeared. While I'm feeling jostled by my to-do list at the moment my great comfort is knowing that October marks the beginning of what is for me a season of favorites: squash, kaki, nashi, and a heaping variety of hearty greens are all about to make their way to the table. And that is a very, very happy thought. My stomach is growling already. Better get to a market!

Saturday, October 1
11am to 3pm
Looks like they'll have lots of garlic this month, so perhaps just follow your nose...

Sunday, October 2
9am to 2pm

Sunday, October 2 and Sunday, October 16
11am to 5pm

Saturday, October 8 and Sunday, October 9
Saturday, October 29 and Sunday, October 30
11am to 5pm

Saturday, October 15 and Sunday, October 16
11am to 5pm

Sunday, October 9
11:30am to 2pm

Sunday, October 30
10am to 4pm, Rain or shine!

Every Saturday and Sunday in October
10am to 4pm

Saturday, October 17
8pm - ?

Every Saturday in October
10am to 2pm

Every Saturday and Sunday in October
11am to 5pm

Know of a market? Give me a shout and we'll add it to the list!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

In Terms of Vegetables: Translation Philosophy

We're back home in Tokyo and getting settled in after our trips to Hokkaido and England. Both were extraordinary adventures, but it's nice to be home again and getting into old routines. While I'm running around catching up on chores in the garden, at the farm, and here at the computer I thought I'd share a post I wrote about translation for Intralingo. Being back in Japan and relearning how to wrap my mind and tongue around the language and grammar here has me pondering the topic all over again.

Language is probably the most important tool I could possess at the moment, but it can be the most difficult to wield. Sometimes it feels cumbersome and overwhelming, and to be honest there are times when I simply want to give up. But then comes a moment of revelation or learning, the spark of a new friendship, and I am motivated to pick it up, dust it off, and dig in again.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

In Memory of an Ornamental Peach

Some might remember reading this past May about an extraordinary tree on the farm here in Tokyo. A bright bloomer, the ornamental peach or himomo, stopped people in their tracks as they went about daily errands. Women in kimono stopped to have their photo taken under it's branches while standing on ground sparkling with pink petals. The blossoms attracted bees galore and birds fluttered about its top regions busily chatting about the season's work ahead while we passed to and fro with seedlings and produce below. The thick and brilliant green leaves provided deep shade for the table and tent where tomatoes, green beans, eggplant, and edamame turned into little bundles to be sold at the farm stand or the local supermarket.

Typhoon Roke, though, brought the beloved himomo down on Wednesday. High winds proved too much for this old friend, and she now lies stricken in front of the gate. Given our lack of space and her prone position across one of the main access points for the farm and fields, she'll have to be taken away. Sun and cloud, wind and rain, life and death are all part and parcel of farming, but there are times when it isn't easy to accept. It goes without saying that our hearts are breaking.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Tokyo's Farmer's Markets: September 24th and 25th markets

It may be near the end of the month, but it's nowhere near the end of opportunities for finding some good fresh vegetables and fruit. Fall is one of the most splendid seasons for eating in Japan, if you ask me, and I can't help but encourage you to head on out to the markets and see what's on offer. And while the markets are great for learning what's in season and how to cook it, they are also fantastic places to find local craftsmen and women selling their wares!

Sunday, September 25th
10am to 4pm

Every Saturday in September
10am to 2pm

Every Saturday and Sunday in September
11am to 5pm

Every Saturday and Sunday in September
10am to 4pm

Another photo from our Hokkaido trip, but this time of dried konbu. We met the fisherman or ryoushi who harvested it (and made a mean bowl of ramen to boot!) while camping in Hamanaka. Yummier than it looks!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A View of the Wargrave Allotments

England is full of castles, assorted ruins, historic sites, cathedrals, museums, churches, and gardens. Not the least of the latter are allotment or community gardens, which I'd begun learning about via Emma Cooper's The Alternative Kitchen Garden and fantastic website. Allotments popped up almost everywhere I went, but opportunities to step inside were rare.

One morning, though, before breakfast and touring I snuck over to one in the village of Wargrave for my own little sight-seeing trip. Established in 1903, this allotments patchwork of flowers and vegetables plots made a feast for the eyes of color and texture, and looked as lovely as any formal garden might. Opening the massive metal gate and venturing up a brick-lined lane an old apple tree stood sentry as much as greeter. The fruit that didn't prove a mild tripping hazard made a tart snack while exploring. A bulletin board sported posters for classes, meetings, and garden workdays along with a stern reminder that taking produce from a garden without permission constituted a criminal offense. Strawberry thieving, while understandable on some level, was also understandably not appreciated.

Purple kale (really a variety of brussel sprouts, I learned from Lane Cottage at the Ludlow Food Festival) along with dinosaur and curly, artichokes, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, winter squash, runner and pole beans, calendula, sunflowers, dahlias galore, assorted fruit trees, raspberry canes, strawberries, and rhubarb were just a few of the lovelies I met with there. Old bathtubs filled with water dotted the landscape at regular intervals as did various kinds of compost bins. Mini-greenhouses and cloches also dotted the landscape now and again, while a few plots had chairs or picnic tables. Judging from the amount of netting (as seen in the above kole crop photo) and scarecrows local birds must be fat as Thanksgiving turkeys from eating so much.

Seeing these vegetables growing was a pleasure, of course, for a gardening geek such as myself, but it was also a reminder of some of my favorites. Japan is home to many a wonderful fruit and vegetable, but root crops can be challenging. Beets, sadly, don't exist in my supermarket nor do parsnips or brussel sprouts. My gracious hosts, incredulous as they were at my request, fulfilled my desire again and again.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Daniel's Mill: Whole Wheat Flour Like They Used to Make

This trip to England has been full of little day trips as well as a very nice handful of wanderings on local footpaths. One of these took us not too far down the road to a place called Daniel's Mill. Located just on the outskirts of Bridgnorth and almost directly under one of the trestle's for the Severn Valley Railway, the white building housing the equipment and accompanying water wheel make for a picturesque view at the very least and a bag of lovely freshly ground whole wheat flour at the most.

Managed by the George family for more than 240 years (a fraction of the history of a site where a mill has operated since the 13th century), our tour inevitably combined family history with that of the mill and its workings. Peter George, our guide and a current operator/owner, brought his ancestors to life for us - vividly describing personalities and appearances - while walking us through the building and teaching us how grain gets made into flour. George drew us into the tale not just with his family portraits, but by turning each of us into the ancestor or illustrating one of their characteristics via us.

"She was about your height," George would say pointing to one of our group, "but your build," pointing to another, "which meant she was the right height for moving about down below and sturdy enough to haul the bags."

It was easy then to imagine the people working the mill floor as it gently shook with the turning of the wheel and stone with ears ever attuned to the subtle changes in sound that signaled too much or too little grain, a need for oil on a gear, or some other warning sign requiring attention. Working the wheel was woman's work - moving the grains and managing their flow - while the fixing and adjusting of equipment was men's work. Not always, but often, and it was easy to see, too, how a whole family would be absorbed into the labor. It would have been dark, dusty work filled with a certain amount of personal danger - fingers and arms tangled in heavy moving machinery - and a constant wariness of flame. A single spark from a metal on stone would mean an explosion and an end of life and livelihood.

"Marry a miller's daughter, and you marry hard work," was the saying George repeated as he guided us along. Marrying into the family meant becoming an extension of the wheel and millstone, being absorbed into the workings and traditions as soon as rings slipped over fingers. It meant maintaining a dam to fill the pond with water that fed the wheel that turned the stone while minding children, customers, accounts, and changing times and technologies. I may never look at a bag of flour in the same way again.

The mill still operates, but not on any fantastically large scale. Early days would have seen an assortment of grain turned into flour and cattle feed for local and regional use, but now it's mainly wheat passing over the grindstone to be sold at the mill itself and a handful of local shops. We sampled its possibilities in the hearty scones served with the usual slab of butter and steaming cups of tea in the nearby shop, and a bag now sits downstairs waiting to help with the fruit crumble for our evening dessert.

Eardington, Bridgnorth
Shropshire, WV16 5JL

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Squash Trellis: Updated!

Trellis' seem to be a favorite topic of gardeners as the search for space to grow just one more thing continues. Farmers and growers in Japan and Tokyo have pondered the same question for generations. Here's one of the solutions spotted at a nearby farm.

As a self-confessed vegetable geek who helps at an organic farm in Tokyo and has a garden, I still get an irresistible urge periodically to head out to the local vegetable stands to see what's on offer. Inevitably a good deal, I usually come away with a little Japanese practice, a recipe, and sometimes a new vegetable. The other day I came away with a new idea.

Reminiscent of the kiwi carport, this squash trellis is my new favorite find. (OK, it's not really a new idea, but it's the biggest trellis of its kind that I've ever seen and not uncommon on local farms.) Full green leaves fluttered along strong vines sporting not just the usual showy squash blossom but lovely, lovely squash in various stages of growth. Hanging at about head height they did seem like a bit of a hazard, but still stunningly beautiful. Surprisingly, there were no supports for the squash as I thought there might be, although I'm planning to head back again to see how it progresses. Metal poles with sturdy netting running across the top and down the sides made for a perfect little alcove. (I confess I was so transfixed by the squash that I didn't look to see if anything was growing underneath.)

Update: The area underneath is used to grow some winter greens when the squash is finished up. This last year I spotted cabbage happily growing in the space below.

The trellis itself runs along the south end of what is now a large and busy garden, but at one time must have been part of a much larger field. (I surmise this based on the size of the adjacent farmhouse and bamboo grove, both of which are some of the largest I've seen in this area.) A grape arbor with the ripening clusters in little white bags at the moment to protect them from greedy birds and bugs runs along the north end as does a rather long row of sunflowers. The associated vegetable stall while a bit out of the way, is still one of my favorites and always worth a visit.

Update: Another neighboring farm has a trellis made of the same heavy duty materials. The set up is permanent, which means the same crop is planted in the same place each year. This strikes me as risky for disease and pests, which is the only drawback of this kind of structure. On the other hand, the cucumber trellis we set up at our farm is not permanent. The ability to move it around from year to year while mildly tedious is probably safer in the long run.

Monday, September 19, 2011

London's Garden Museum

While staying in London on this trip to England I had the great pleasure to visit The Garden Museum. One bridge over from Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, the museum is a little green treasure. Dedicated to the history of gardening n England, it is utterly satisfying despite being such a small thing tackling such a large subject. In my few hours there, whole new worlds opened up and I found it rather challenging to leave even after I'd seen everything, eaten at the cafe, and done a bit of shopping.

The permanent collection includes a variety of items ranging from a catalog of John Tradescant the Elder's amazing collection of flora discovered while traveling in pursuit of new specimen's for his employers to a thumb pot (a watering can that released water only when the thumb is removed from the top) to an early lawn mower to a seed dispensing machine. Joining these items are an assortment of drawings and paintings of gardens and gardeners, tools for the working as well as the gentleman gardener, and special exhibitions.

Tradescant's catalog deserves a short word as it is thought to be the first of its kind to be published in Great Britain and it is the keystone around which the museum was formed. Published in 1656, this little volume recounts in short entries what must have been an extraordinary life of travel and adventure for the elder Tradescant and his son, John, who followed literally and figuratively in his father's green footsteps. The Garden Museum copy, once owned by diarist John Evelyn, sits rightfully untouchable in a light and temperature controlled space, but thankfully still readable. Peering in visitors can find for themselves what some of the specimens were and where they were collected. The museum's first acquisition, it was an absolutely thrilling read for a gardening geek like me.

The knot garden, through the cafe and out a back door, is another of the gems of the museum. As Big Ben chimed the hour I walked the paved paths past samples of some of the plants the Tradescant's collected as well as their grave. (Captain Bligh of Mutiny on the Bounty fame is also buried here. According to a docent, he lived in the neighborhood after retirement and was an avid gardener in his own right.) Markers, of course, give common and Latin names as well as when the specimen was first collected and where it can be found. Regions represented include North America, West Asia, Europe, and even southern Turkey and Central Iran with dates ranging around the mid to late 1500's. It is staggering to imagine the journey out to find and gather it as well as the return journey with loads of plants, seeds, leaves, and flowers carefully stored in hopes of settling in a new home.

The museum cafe seems as popular as the museum itself. A steady stream of customers flocked in for a latte, a fat brownie or a vegetable tart with soup and salad. I opted for the butternut squash and leek soup with a slice of fresh bread with a plate of one of the more unique looking salads I'd ever seen. Peas, baby radicchio and chard, string beans, red onion, and a few arugula leaves all drizzled with olive oil were the perfect companion to my lovely deep bowl of squashy-leeky goodness. (I still regret not asking for the recipe.) If the series of talks, events, garden tours, and upcoming exhibits wouldn't be enough to make me a regular, the cafe would certainly seal the deal.

From my spot I surveyed the reading tables on the central floor and the gift shop offering an excellent range of gardening books, postcards, seeds, and other gifts of the useful and fun variety. Long wooden reading tables for adults and children alike spread evenly across the hardwood floor making it easy for someone even remotely enthusiastic about gardening to want to while away the hours reading and exploring. Needless to say, I did eventually have to leave, but it wasn't easy.

Lambeth Palace Road
London SE1 7LB

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Satoyama: Japan's Sustainable Farming Philosophy

Roaming the hills and byways of Shropshire these past weeks means steeping myself in one of England's loveliest areas. Full of farms and fields outlined with deep green hedges and dark stone walls and dotted with sheep and hay bales it's easy to see how something like the Ludlow Food Festival could bloom here.

And it's got me thinking about all things agricultural, especially as an article I recently wrote about satoyama, a traditional Japanese farming practice, for Eco+Waza is still rolling through my mind. The slightly wild edge of well-ordered fields, satoyama is often thought of as a managed forest ring around farm fields. Trees would be harvested for fuel as well as construction, while wild animals also used it as a food and shelter source. It would have been carefully used as a kind of common space by everyone in the village, but always with an eye out for avoiding overuse. Destruction of even one part of the system would mean a collapse of the whole. My scavenging of raspberries, sloes, and damsons from the hedgerows as we walk the footpaths, ancient right of ways as one of my friends said recently, lacing the region is perhaps a (delicious!) way to partake in a similar tradition here.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

C-Cafe's September Organic Buffet

Just in case folks are looking for something a little unique to do this weekend, I'd like to suggest C-Cafe's Sunday Organic Buffet. It's all-you-can-eat all-organic all-local food for the lovely price of 1,000yen, and I promise you won't be disappointed. Feast on seasonal dishes of extraordinary flavor and creativeness, and please don't forget to try the curry. It's seriously one of the most wonderful things I've ever eaten, and that includes my mother's meatloaf as well as her coffeecake. I'd also recommend wearing something with a comfortable waistband. It's that good.

Sunday, September 18th
11:30am - 2pm
1,000 yen

Photo Note: A close-up of Silent Cafe's banana milk and perfectly sweet cookies. More yumminess!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Tokyo Farmer's Markets: September 17th and 18th

A little more action in terms of farmer's markets this weekend! Grab a shopping bag and head on out to explore the city and get some good fresh vegetables. Remember, too, that markets are a fun place to take visitors whether from abroad or just another city in Japan. The UN University Night Market is an especially unique outing, and Kichijoji in general never disappoints.

Saturday, September 17th and Sunday, September 18th
11am to 5pm

Saturday, September 17th
- until 8pm!

Every Saturday in September
10am to 2pm

Every Saturday and Sunday in September
11am to 5pm

Every Saturday and Sunday in September
10am to 4pm

This week's photo is from our visit to Nemuro in Hokkaido. A community gathering to remember the loss of the Kuril Islands after the war and the struggle to get them back from Russia sported some local food and this vegetable truck. Nemuro is primarily a fishing area with fierce winds and unpredictable weather year-round, so gardening and farming is pretty challenging. All of the produce on this truck came from other parts of the island.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Footpath Harvest

Confession: I'm cheating a bit here, and back-dating this post. We've been having such a great time exploring England - London to Shropshire to Herefordshire - that I've got more than enough to write about and not enough days to do it in. And I still have some great spots to share that we visited during our bike tour in Hokkaido. Such a difficult life I lead...

England, thankfully, is riddled with footpaths. These ancient rite-of-ways, as a good friend called them during a recent outing, are a real treasure. Not only do they afford a fantastic way to explore the countryside as well as a handy shortcut through the village, but this time of year they overflow with damson plums, black raspberries, sloes, as well as an assortment of apples and pears. So far we've made two fruit crumbles, a.k.a. fruit crisps - one with red and green plums as well as apples, and one with just apples - with another on the menu for tonight. (I think we'll give damsons a go in this one, and see what we get.) Jane made a beautiful batch of damson gin (the drink that started my love affair with that particular fruit and perhaps inspired all the shus I've since made), and we're contemplating damson cheese, too. (The sample we tried at the Ludlow Food Festival proved inspiring, to say the least. Damson cheese is, essentially, a fruit butter poured into a mold and served up in slabs like cheese.) No wonder my pants feel a bit more snug.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Guest Post: Kris Bordessa's Chorizo-Tortilla Soup

I 'met' Kris Bordessa during the 2011 Blogathon this past May. Discovering other bloggers and new blogs, is one of the great pleasures of participating in events like the Blogathon, and Attainable Sustainable is no exception. Following is a guest post from Kris detailing one of her yummy recipes. Enjoy!

(Photo of an assortment of peppers we grew on the farm last year as an experiment. Hot times, indeed!)

When people think about Hawaii, they generally imagine warm, palm lined beaches with an ‘ukulele playing Hawaiian music in the background. (Right?) But that’s not always the case. I live at the 1,000-foot elevation where it’s lush and green and mild. But this summer has been unseasonably wet and cool. In spite of our tropical location, I find myself serving soup a couple of times a week.

One of our favorites is a spicy soup with a Mexican flair. It’s easy to put together (especially if you have a food processor for chopping the vegetables) and utilizes tomatoes and peppers straight from my garden.

Chorizo-Tortilla Soup

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

  • 2 onions, finely chopped

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped

  • 3 oz cooked chorizo or vegetarian Soyrizo

  • 3 cups finely diced or crushed tomatoes

  • 2 cups chicken broth

  • ½ - 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

  • tortilla chips (the remains of the bag work well)

  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Heat the oil in a stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, garlic, bell pepper, and chorizo. Saute until onions start to brown. Add the tomatoes, broth, and pepper flakes. Simmer on low heat for an hour. Stir in the cilantro. Divide soup between 4 bowls and top with tortilla chips and cheese. If you have teens as I do, or like leftovers, I recommend doubling this recipe.

This recipe works well in a slow cooker, too. Simply combine sauteed ingredients, tomatoes, broth, and pepper flakes in a slow cooker and cook on low for 5-6 hours.


Kris Bordessa lives on an island and dislikes depending on a barge for her needs. She strives daily toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle, writing about her successes (and failures) at Attainable Sustainable.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ludlow Food Festival: Still Full Two Days Later

Good friends of ours took us to one of their favorite local events this past weekend: the Ludlow Food Festival. In it's 17th year, the festival takes place inside as well as outside Ludlow Castle grounds, and showcases a huge variety of foods all produced locally. Foodie or local food enthusiast or farmer this festival is testimony to how much great food can come from one region. I was stunned, stuffed, and thrilled to have been able to attend. When we next come to the festival, it will be for all three days. And with a planned exercise regime. I believe I gained three pounds in cheese samples alone.

It is also testimony (any one in Detroit reading?) what an economic engine food can be. While these folks won't get super rich, they can support themselves doing something they love. As a community development geek with vegetables at heart, it was inspiring to see how one town built on an agricultural and food heritage (and a very nice castle ruin) to become a buzzing hub of yumminess in all price ranges that people come from far and wide to savor. I'm not from Ludlow nor am I English, but I was very proud of what I saw there.

The pleasure of such festivals, of course, is not just the food. It is the opportunity to meet and talk with the people who grow, produce, make, and concoct the fine foods on the table before us. I learned how cider is made (not just any apple will do, apparently), that there is a wild boar farm not far from here (lock your doors, please), and that damson plums make a fine ketchup. I was stunned at the level of enthusiasm the vendors maintained to the last moment of what must have been an intense three days of customer interaction.

Here are a few highlights.

Cider. From Ralph's to Oliver's to Rosie's, there was more cider than it was possible to sip in a single day, although my husband certainly gave it a good try. Who knew there was such a thing as a cider apple containing the yeast and sugar already? Who knew that cider stored in old rum barrels could be so lovely? Or that 300 kilograms of apples would make 45 gallons of this appley delight?

Cheese. Welsh, farmhouse, cheddar, damson, and more passed my lips and filled my bag by the end of the day. An amazing array of flavors and textures that I can't even begin to describe were on display and getting scarfed up by attendees standing three and four deep. I'm heading back to the Ludlow Food Centre, though, for their cheddar. A pretty yellow cheese rippled with blue the flavor is both strong and subtle, and good enough to draw me back over Clee Hill to make a purchase.

Preserves. Damson, greengauge, rhubarb marmalade, picalilly, mustard, and chutneys galore were out in their finest to tempt and seduce. While I fell rather hard for Ludlow Jam Pan's damson ketchup, I opted for their damson jam. (Damson's are, literally and figuratively, a sweet little plum I fell for three years ago, and I've not looked back since.) Sadly, I was too full by the end of our day to even think of buying a jar of What A Pickle's Tomato Chilli Jam, but I did love the sample.

Sausage, salami, and pie. Wild boar, venison, pork, pork and leek, and more were just a few of the savory sausage samples sending our taste buds soaring. Pie Mania's uniquely flavored Thai Chook Pie (free range chicken, fragrant Thai green curry, sweet potato and lime) had us all swooning as did Legges of Bromyard wild boar and pork sausages.

Vegetables and fruit. Fresh produce did not dominate this festival, although it was certainly present. Where, after all, do all these good things come from if not raw ingredients? A friend shared some of Lane Cottage's tomatoes, which had me hopping over to their booth to marvel at their kale, marrow, carrots, and other lovelies. Purple curly kale is a new variety for me, so we came home with heaps of it and some dinosaur, too. Court Farm's fruit caught my eye at the end of the day, and I came away happily loaded down with plums, raspberries, and strawberries but interesting facts about their varieties and growing practices. (Marjory Seedling came as a recommended plum variety, and the one I tried was perfect.)

Meringue, black pudding, ales, liqueurs, smoked garlic and onions, granola, cakes, olives, oils, books and more were also in abundance, but I couldn't get to them all as much as I tried. Despite that, it was a fantastic day of eating, drinking, learning, and fun. Would I go again? Without a doubt. Would I recommend it? Definitely.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Serving Up Purple Carrot Greens: Reprise

When I first published this post last year I blithely commented that the next time I visited England I'd visit the carrot museum. Well, as this goes up I'm trotting about that fair isle, but since realized it's digital! (Mild embarrassment there.) All of that aside, this is a recipe I regularly serve and savor. It's so satisfying to use the whole plant, even though I don't mind turning things over to my friends in the compost bin. Munch away!

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 found 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 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. If their earthier taste wasn't enough to sell me, 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 carrots came from Afghanistan and were purple. Orange didn't come on the scene until sometime in the 1500's, and by then yellow and red carrots were also available. This particular cultivar may not be quite that old, but I like to imagine it's forebears made their way here on assorted trade vessels long ago. As a root vegetable, I presume it traveled well, and would been one of the few "fresh" things sailors might have eaten.

The Leaves
As the title suggests, though, the greens also got my attention. Usually, I simply cut them off and send them off to the compost bin. But these seemed so verdant and I noticed as I moved them about they gave off a scent reminiscent of shungiku. Could it be?

Any other deep green green is deemed incredibly edible, good for you, and profoundly delicious. Our garden and menu often includes kale, komatsuna, shungiku, spinach, broccoli (even the leaves), and others of that ilk. More and more studies show that leafy green vegetables arebeneficial in a variety of ways (fending off diabetes and assorted cancers, maintaining vision, staving off heart disease and high blood pressure, great sources of calcium, etc., etc.) and that anywhere from five to 25 cups of them (as well as other fruits and vegetables) need to be eaten in a day. (Check out this great alternative food pyramid from the University of Michigan. More attractive than it's government counterpart, it's also more sensible.) For me, these are all side benefits of the fact that they are incredibly tasty.

I liked the idea, too, of using all of a plant and leaving nothing to waste. (I'm channeling Emma Cooper here, perhaps, whose book The Alternative Kitchen Garden I reviewed.) The leaves, again according to The Carrot Museum in the UK (a next vacation destination if ever there was one!), are edible, nutritious, and full of everything a body needs. I fingered these lovely leaves thoughtfully for a moment, and then decided to charge forward with a grand experiment. Why not make them just as I do Goma Ai Shungiku?

The Results
Using the chrysanthemum recipe for cooking the carrot greens offered mixed results. The stems close to the carrot itself were quite thick and required a bit more cooking time. The feathery parts of the leaves and nearby stem were delicious, although they also would have benefited from a slightly longer cooking time. I would suggest cooking them for 90 seconds or even a full two minutes. I'll be trying this again, and will post results of future experiments.

A Few More Resources
Darya Pino over at Summer Tomato wrote this piece on the myth of super foods that offers good advice for thinking of food as not just nutrients, but as food and the power of eating a diverse diet of whole foods.

Purple carrots aren't new to the world, but knowledge of their specific health benefits is. This article, suggests they may be the next super food for their antioxidant properties. (Make sure you read Darya's article first, please!)

This recipe for purple carrot and purslane salad sounded lovely. I've already imagined replacing the pine nuts with walnuts, making the feta cheese soft tofu instead, and using rice vinegar rather than red wine vinegar for the dressing. (It also appeals to me as purslane is one of those unsung garden heroes, in my opinion.)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

London's Borough Market: A Quick Visit

Any vacation of mine is surely going to include vegetables and a trip to a food market of some kind. Matron from Down at the Allotment tipped me off to London's Borough Market, a bustling market place near the heart of the city that brims with vendors, vegetables, and treats of all kinds. Despite a short and fast visit, I managed to come away with the usual armload of bags of scrumptious things. Here are a few of the highlights.

Heirloom apples and tomatoes. I'd not forgotten about tomatoes, of course, but I had somehow forgotten the signature taste of apples in fall. Japanese apples tend to be monster fruits with pretty good flavor, but those I've had so far don't compare remotely even to the windfalls from a house down the road from where we are staying. A variety of flavors and textures and colors all remind me of the season I am enjoying this very moment.

French breakfast radishes. I have read any number of blog posts and articles about this little vegetable, but never eaten them. This bundle looked too good to pass up, and since I was strolling the market with Delphine Cheng of Le Panier de Piu it seemed only appropriate to purchase some. She recommended eating them with a bit of butter and some bread, which we did the very next morning. That little bite with the creamy butter was almost as a good a start to my day as that first cup of coffee.

Bread. Good pastry and cakes are easy to find in Japan, but good bread can be a challenge. This was an item on my agenda for this trip, and the market featured any number of bakers selling all sorts of yeasty things. My favorite, though, turned out to be the flowerpot loaves from The Honest Carrot. Baked right in the flowerpot ( a brilliant idea if ever there was one!) loaves came large or small, whole wheat or white. Adorable as well as yummy and clever. (See top photo.)

Truffles. Again, I'd never eaten a truffle or properly seen one despite reading a number of odes to them. Delphine zeroed in on this jar immediately, and we went in for a sniff. As she lifted her head from jar Delphine said without hesitation that this was the smell of the forest in France. Pungent and smokey, I could only imagine what the flavor must be.

Baklava. It seems only appropriate that one of the first vendors we came across sold this dessert. This weekend Sybil and Maan host their annual lamb roast, and once again we are far away. Lamb, hummous, tabouleh, Maan's beans, and a variety of sweets will deck the tables before sunset and the leavings will be just as good for the clean-up crew the next day.

Planning to go?
Tube: London Bridge
Thursday: 11am - 5pm
Friday: 12pm - 6pm
Saturday: 8am - 5pm

Friday, September 9, 2011

Tokyo Farmer's Markets: September 10th and 11th markets

The first week of September was chock full of markets, and this weekend feels a bit slower. My advice would be to check the status of the Ebisu Market, too. It may have cropped up on the calendar since this post was scheduled. That's always a fun one in a nifty part of town. Otherwise, head on out to explore and see what vegetable adventures there are to be had!

Every Saturday in September
10am to 2pm

Every Saturday and Sunday in September
11am to 5pm

Every Saturday and Sunday in September
10am to 4pm

Today's photo is from our trip to the Fuji Five Lakes in July, and has my mouth watering at the memory of those lovely peaches. Wasteful as they are, I do find their little styrofoam sweaters rather cute, too.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Maan's Beans: Tomatoes and Green Beans Meet Garlic

While I'm on vacation for a bit - England rather than Hokkaido this time - I'm bringing forward posts that readers seem to head for most often. This one, it is no surprise, is a regular favorite. The dish, lab-man in Lebanese, is a favorite of mine and is truly as much a taste of home as my mother's meatloaf. There's a fair amount of olive oil, but it's well-balanced by the feast of garlic that goes with it. Enjoy!

Our neighbors, Sybil and Maan, are famous for their food. One cannot enter their home without finding a dish of tasty nuts, a warm bowl of soup, or a plate of hummus and tabbouleh. Their annual lamb roast is an event we scheduled our Michigan lives around, and a dinner invitation is never declined. (They are also incredible company, so it's not just the food we go for.) The best is when Maan lets you help make the dish of the day. My favorite memories undoubtedly include watching my olive oil soaked hands disappear into the verdant green of parsley, mint, garlic, tomato and bulgur to mix the neighborhood favorite - tabbouleh.

So, at a gathering of the Michigan Lady Food Bloggers the theme for the potluck was Summer in January. I wanted to use some of the canned goods I was trying to work my way through. Berries and fruit were covered - strawberry shortcake, homemade ice cream, a berry crisp - so vegetables seemed a good choice. Then I spotted the jars of tomatoes and green beans. Instantly, I saw it. Maan's green beans and tomatoes bubbling away in a big pot.

Maan makes this dish with fresh green beans and tomatoes, and lots and lots of garlic. It is, of course, best when all the ingredients are fresh and brought over from Frog Holler Organic Farm down the way. I used my canned beans and tomatoes, and the "lots and lots of garlic." (While the rest of America might be slowly turning into corn, Maan is quite possibly turning into garlic and thankfully taking the neighborhood with him.)

Maan's Green Beans (offered with permission)
2 quarts canned tomatoes
4 pints canned green beans (hold back the juice)
Medium onion, chopped
Two heads of garlic, peeled*
2 small cans of tomato paste
Olive oil
*Maan has left the garlic unpeeled in the past making for a fun exercise while eating this dish.

Saute the onions in olive oil until they are very brown, nearly caramelized. And use a generous amount of olive oil to do so. Then plop in the tomatoes and tomato paste, the beans, the garlic, and the salt. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Salt to taste. When the beans are fresh, simmer until they are well done. When the beans are canned, simmer until the garlic is soft and you can't wait anymore. I left it for about five hours, but it was even better the next day after more time sitting. If you make it early in the day it could be perfect for an evening meal. Best if eaten with fresh pita bread, but tasty on its own or served over rice.

Friday, September 2, 2011

September Farmer's Markets

September promises (maybe) cooler temperatures and a gradual switch from summer produce to fall favorites. I can almost taste those first leaves of komatsuna, karashina, and arugula now...but I'm getting ahead of myself. As always, there's more good farmer's market opportunities in Tokyo than one might have ever imagined possible in this megalopolis. Markets here, just as they are anywhere else in the world, are a great chance to explore, meet people, practice language, and create little bits of community while talking food. Sounds like heaven to me.

Saturday, September 3rd
Still no time listed, but I'd bet on 11am to 3pm.

Nishi Sugami Earthday Market
Sunday, September 4th
12pm to 5pm
A new one for me, but I imagine it to be something like the Shinonome Market: small but good.

Saturday, September 17th and Sunday, September 18th
11am to 5pm

Saturday, September 17th
- until 8pm!

Sunday, September 25th
10am to 4pm

Every Saturday in September
10am to 2pm

Every Saturday and Sunday in September
11am to 5pm

Every Saturday and Sunday in September
10am to 4pm

Today's photo comes from June at the farm when beans (engen) were in full swing. The fall planting is in, but August's high temperatures may have struck the seeds too hard. I'm feeling hopeful, and so am posting this picture.