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Growing Winter Vegetables at Home

Young radish in the November sun.
Winter in my native American Midwest is when the garden is but a seed-catalog fed fantasy. Autumn is when the garlic gets tucked in, manure and straw loaded on the beds, and I head in for the first in a long series of cups of tea. And a nip or two of homemade wine crafted by good friends.

Here in Tokyo, though, it's a different story. Farmers here tuck nothing in except another bunch of seeds in their pockets and head on out to the fields once more. Manure and various other items - nuka (rice bran), momigara (rice hulls), and good old-fashioned compost - get flopped on the soil, tilled in, covered with mulch, and a fresh round of vegetables go in the ground.

As much as I long for the days of looking out at a snow-covered garden from a wood-stove warmed home with a knitting project and cat on my lap simultaneously, I'm also grateful for these winter crops. As I've said time and time again, they are easily my favorite part of the Japanese fresh vegetable menu. So green, flavorful, lush, and cheerful, my salads are no longer complete without them. Thankfully, too, my kale grows apace during these months, so I get a bit of the best of both worlds.

But I digress. You don't need to have fields of your own or even a plot of ground to start enjoying your own winter vegetables. Peruse the seed packets, fill a pot, put it in a sunny spot, give it a bit of covering from the worst of the cold, and you can start tasting the joy of the season. Bon appetit!

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