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Showing posts from August, 2013

Tokyo Farmers Markets: August 31st and September 1st

Fun with vegetables at the Earth Day Market! August wraps up with the usual round of markets and small signs of the change in seasons. Typhoons may be upon us, but so are squash and the final rounds of tomatoes. Don't be shy to rake in those bright lovelies, although eggplant will carry on well into November. Chestnuts, too, will soon arrive, and I've been pondering a second try at a brandy recipe friends adore. Head on out and see what could be cooking! UN University Market Every Saturday and Sunday A massive weekend affair that is great fun and features a variety of fruits and vegetables and prepared products from all over Japan. Plus, there's a most excellent selection of food trucks offering everything from salad to zingy curry to roast chicken to falafel! 10am to 4pm Map Roppongi Market Every Saturday A first  visit to this market  was well worth the trek for the number of organic growers and getting to meet a Tokyo farmer from just down the tra

Thursday Snapshot: Tiny Orchids at Fushimi Inari Shrine

Little orchids on the trail at Fushimi Inari in Nara. It was while hiking at the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Nara that I spotted these little lovelies last October. Set in a pot outside a quiet little tea shop alongside the trail their leopard spots proved irresistible. A maze of trails runs up the hillside through the cemetery behind the shrine, and when we are there we always give them a wander. It is a beautiful and peaceful place that I can't recommend enough. Plus, there's a fantastic eel restaurant just near the bottom. Perfect.

A Duck of My Own

Minowa Farms at the Earth Day Market. Way too much fun to not stop and say hello! Each month I pick up a bag of brown rice from Minowa Rice Field at the Earth Day Market . The rice is good, and it's organic, of course, but what charmed me from the start were the ducks. The Minowa's use ducks to help weed their rice fields. The ducks eat weeds but not the rice seedlings, add a bit of fertilizer as they go, and at the end of the season, when the rice is harvested, we eat the ducks. Utterly brilliant, if you ask me. Duck has been on our family table ever since I can remember. I come from a family of hunters, so each Thanksgiving our turkey and stuffing was served up with a smaller plate of dark, rich duck meat. My oldest brother remains an avid hunter with a deep admiration for water fowl, so when we're home in winter, I often get to sample this favorite dish. So this year when Nagisa Minowa mentioned their duck owner program , I was intrigued. In previous years they&

Tokyo Farmers Markets: Saturday, August 24th and Sunday, August 25th

Honey at the Earth Day Market. So sweet, so delightful. Hot weather is tomato, okra, and eggplants beloved friend, but I can't say it's mine. I'm more like cabbage and kale, cool weather fans that relish the low angle of fall sun and that do better after the first frost. However, I adore all the things that can be made with those summer crops and the things I haven't heard about or dreamed up yet. Even on vacation I can't resist the draw of a fresh-picked tomato. So, head on out to one of these great markets and see what adventures can be head in hot weather! UN University Market Every Saturday and Sunday A massive weekend affair that is great fun and features a variety of fruits and vegetables and prepared products from all over Japan. Plus, there's a most excellent selection of food trucks offering everything from salad to zingy curry to roast chicken to falafel! 10am to 4pm Map Roppongi Market Every Saturday A first  visit to this mark

Thursday Snapshot: My First Garden

A snapshot of my first garden in Michigan. Spring, 2002. We moved to rural Michigan in the spring of 2002 after I finished graduate school. An old farmhouse on family property stood in need of inhabitants, and we wanted to give country life a go. Family and friends supported my new-found interest in growing and preserving food, lending books and spending steamy afternoons preparing tomatoes for canning. I killed some seedlings and managed to see others through to the first hard frost. I learned to make pesto and dreamed about making jam. The next year the garden, literally, jumped the fence. I grew my first popcorn and squash and made forays into the world of canning. It was spectacular fun that I obviously haven't been able to give up.

Natural Farming Article in Permaculture Magazine

Cover of Permaculture Magazine, Issue 77. Our visit this past spring to Hamma Farm in Nara Prefecture is one of the most amazing trips I've taken yet. While there were no great peaks to scale, rushing rivers to cross, or kilometers to bike, it was an adventure in food and farming that I adored. Kazuto and Erina Hamma, the brother and sister duo that run the farm, opened their natural farm to my husband and I for four days of good work, great food, and lovely companionship. I left feeling like I'd been reunited with long lost friends and with a renewed sense of sustainable farming. Permaculture Magazine (a UK publication worth every penny a subscription costs) felt my story was worth sharing with their readers. The most recent issue includes an account of my visit there and the Hamma's story. It's a great bit of reading, if I do say so myself, and will hopefully inspire others to look at natural farming more seriously. (You'll have to buy the issue if you wa

Takayama's Morning Markets: Reprise

This post first appeared here on January 10, 2011 after a fantastic visit to this terrific old city. I dream of returning in summer or fall when I imagine those mountainsides are green and the markets overflowing with regional bounty and flavor. Instead, I'm showcasing it a second time to encourage others while I'm toodling around on my bicycle in Tohoku. Do tell if you go and what you find. I'd love to know! - JB 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 thin

Tokyo Farmers Markets: Saturday, August 17th and Sunday, August 18th

Earth Day Market in June. Welcome to the most farmers-market-y weekend in Tokyo! Markets abound making choices of which one to attend a bit tricky. I'm a fan of the Nippori Market for its petite size, excellent food options (try the manju!), and lovely vegetables , and Koenji is no slouch, either. The UN University Night Market , though, is the hands-down winner for summer evening grocery shopping fun - music, good food, and a festive atmosphere - for the whole family or a fascinating first date. The possibilities are endless! Ebisu Market Taking a vacation for the month of August! They'll be back on Sunday, September 4th. Map Gyre Market Saturday,  August 17th and Sunday, August 18th (Probably.*) A gem of a market hidden away in one of Tokyo's high-end shopping districts offering seasonal favorites in a way that feels homey yet rather boutique-y. 11am to 5pm Map *The Gyre Market schedule has been a bit wonky of late, so I'll update this as I ge

Thursday Snapshot: My Dad and Gooby

Dad and Gooby. February, 2011 I don't often share pictures of a personal nature here, but my Dad has a birthday this month. We haven't been able to be home with him to celebrate in a long time. If we were there, there'd be brats on the grill, euchre around the table, a fair bit of trash-talking, and best of all, my Dad's laugh. It's not a belly laugh, but there is a rather 'Ho-ho-ho' quality to it, and to see his face wide with delight is a lovely thing. He's quiet but full of stories, and if you get him at the right time he'll start telling them and not stop. I love that, too. I'm not going to wax on and on about memories of summer afternoons fishing (mostly trout and bluegills) or meals out (Friday Night Fish Fry) or anything of that nature. I'll just say he's a good guy and I'm glad he's my dad. Here he's pictured with Gooby, our Kazakhstan cat who passed away this February. She was quiet too, but full of her own stor

Japan Farmers Markets in Outdoor Japan Summer Traveler

Summer 2013 Issue I'm a firm believer that traveler's should work a visit to a local farmers market into their itineraries. It the best way to take a 'real' dip into Japanese culture and tradition while meeting locals. The language may be different and the vegetable perhaps odd looking, but two human beings coming together, especially over food, is a lovely thing. A sincere interest in what's on the table paired with an openness to a new experience all mixed with a hearty pinches of smiles and laughter makes a wonderful experience no standard guidebook offers. As luck would have it, Gardner Robinson of Outdoor Japan feels the same way and in the most recent edition of their Summer Traveler can be found a little blurb about farmers markets. (See page 9 for the scoop!) There's heaps of other awesome stories in there, too, so after folks have had their fill at a nearby market (or before!) they can see what other adventures await. The magazine won't dis

Akigawa Farmers Market: A Review

Akigawa Farmers Market I met Lionel Dersot earlier this year while researching a story about Tokyo fruit. His website said he offered tours and I was curious to see what I might find. Tokyo is, after all, much greener and more edible than most of us give it credit for, so the little hidden orchards I imagined Lionel would show me didn't seem an impossibility. While we didn't find orchards we did find plenty of fruit as we walked for three hours that sunny afternoon near Ginza, and we had a great time. Lionel, a Frenchman who has called Tokyo home for more than two decades, is fascinating. If my feet hadn't been so tired and my bag so heavy from all the foodly loot he encouraged me to buy, I would have walked another few hours. Akigawa market interior with flowers. During the tour Lionel mentioned a farmers market near his in-laws home that he thought I should see. It was Tokyo's biggest, he said. "And there's a great soba restaurant there," h

Tokyo Farmers Markets: Saturday, August 10th and Sunday, August 11th

Yoshio Kosaka, a Tokyo farmer, at Roppongi Ark Hills. He's got berries, eggs, watermelon and more! Temperatures are high, but adventure beckons at one of these great Tokyo farmers markets! Don't be shy about getting your chilled soup on or finding a beet or two to make one of my all-time favorite recipes: beet caviar . (I guarantee that it's the best looking purple salad you'll ever taste.) Who knows? You might even meet a samurai-farmer or find a recipe for new potatoes ? Go on and get out there! Ebisu Market Taking a vacation for the month of August! They'll be back on Sunday, September 4th. Map UN University Market Every Saturday and Sunday A massive weekend affair that is great fun and features a variety of fruits and vegetables and prepared products from all over Japan. Plus, there's a most excellent selection of food trucks offering everything from salad to zingy curry to roast chicken to falafel! 10am to 4pm Map Roppongi Ma

Thursday Snapshot: Sake Cups in Matshushima

Otafuku and Hyottoko sake cups in Matsushima sake shop. As this goes live we'll be starting our trip to Tohoku. If all goes according to plan, we'll visit a farmer near Aizu Wakamatsu , munch our way through Sendai's morning market, and volunteer a bit in Minamisanriku . After that it's on to further adventures north of Tokyo. As we map and email and pack and prepare posts ahead of time, I took some time to peruse photos from two earlier trips we made in 2011. They were when I first fell in love with Aizu Wakamatsu and Sendai. After the triple disaster, Tohoku became part of my consciousness. Those two trips showed me a place steeped in history, rich in natural beauty, full of good food, and populated with some of the best people I've met yet in Japan. When we left part of my heart stayed there. Pictured here are sake cups in one of Matsushima's local shops. Located near the bay dotted with islands large and small, a natural configuration that experts b

Shiomomi Nasu: A No-Cook Eggplant Recipe

Eggplant and our new pickle-making jar at the ready! My Japanese teacher is a great cook. We discuss many things in our sessions, and the topic often centers around food. We share recipes for favorite dishes, and quite regularly she'll whip out a small plate and serve up some creation from her kitchen. It is invariably delicious. (She's also a really great teacher.) The most recent of these is shiomomi nasu (salt-massaged eggplant). She knows, of course, of my interest in food, farmers markets , and that I work on an organic farm in Tokyo . One day as I shared with her some nasu (eggplant) from the farm, she mentioned a no-cook recipe. My ears perked up immediately as I'm always on the watch for dishes that don't require turning on the stove in this heat. Shiomomi Nasu 1 eggplant (small to medium size) 1 tablespoon salt* Thinly slice the eggplant and place in a bowl. Sprinkle the salt evenly over the slices and massage. Let sit for ten minutes or so before

A Review of David Buchanan's Taste, Memory: Forgotten Foods, Lost Flavors, and Why They Matter

These days I spend a fair amount of time reading books for review with a few thrown in for pleasure. One of the latter is Taste, Memory: Forgotten Foods, Lost Flavors, and Why They Matter by David Buchanan (Chelsea Green, 2012). After reading an excerpt on Chelsea Green's website, I was so entranced by Buchanan's writing that I bought myself a copy. (Full disclosure: I regularly receive Chelsea Green books for review.) I read much of it on our flight from Chicago to Tokyo this past March, which speaks volumes about Buchanan's ability to tell a story. The only other author to hold my attention on that interminable flight was Philip Pullman, and Buchanan manged it with nary a fantastical being in sight. Taste, Memory explores what place heirlooms and the raising of them have in this modern world of farming and food. Of particular interest for farmer types like me is his exploration of whether or not it's practical. Most people, especially anyone reading this, is

August Farmers Markets in Tokyo

A lovely harvest of peaches at the Roppongi Farmers Market. August is a long, hot month in Tokyo, but luckily for the rest of us it is also one of bounty. Summer's heat produces bumper crops of summer favorites - tomato and eggplant - along with a range of other lovelies - cucumber , okra, green beans , and salad squash to name only a few - that add their color and variety to the pageant. Find all the ingredients needed for a cold summer soup and paired with a refreshing glass of umehachimitsu and sparkling water. Summer perfection starts at the farmers market! Ebisu Market Taking a vacation for the month of August! They'll be back on Sunday, September 4th. Map Gyre Market Saturday,  August 17th and Sunday, August 18th (Probably.*) A gem of a market hidden away in one of Tokyo's high-end shopping districts offering seasonal favorites in a way that feels homey yet rather boutique-y. 11am to 5pm Map *The Gyre Market schedule has been a bit wonky of l