Friday, November 29, 2013

Tokyo Farmers Markets Saturday, November 30th and Sunday, December 1st

Drying togarashi braided with wara (rice straw) at the Nippori Farmers Market.
Another lovely weekend awaits those seeking seasonal, fresh food. Seriously, winter is such the best season in Tokyo for wandering about! No searing temperatures and humidity to weigh a shopper down as they peruse sweet potatoes, some of the first hoshigaki (dried persimmons) of the season, winter greens, daikon types galore, and more kabu than should be legal in one sitting. Just imagine the pickle possibilities! Oh, and the yuzu and other citrus just coming along now. And the apples. And the mochi. Heavens, what could you be waiting for?

Every Saturday and Sunday*
*Check out the Bread Festival on Sunday, November 1st where a variety of sourdough and other breads will be ready for eating!
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

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 tracks in Kokobunji!
10am to 2pm

Yurakucho Farmer's Market
Every Saturday and Sunday
Smaller than the UNU Market, Yurakacho features a particular region of Japan each week along with an excellent selection of seasonal fruit and vegetables. Growers from nearby Chiba, Kamakura, and Saitama are also on hand to help fill the larder.
11am to 5pm
Directions: Turn left out of Yurakacho station and cross the courtyard toward Tokyo Kouku Keitan. Look for the fun under the overhang!

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

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thursday Snapshots: Minamisanriku Garden

Garden in Minamisanriku, Tohoku.
Today is Thanksgiving in my home country, and I pondered for quite some time about what photo to put here. I'm homesick this year for the holiday more than I ever have been in our nearly five years here. I can't put my finger on exactly why, but my heart pines to be with all sides of my crazy, loving, and weird family. 

Close-up of the squash.
However, I also thought about others who would give anything to be with those they love. That would be folks from Washington County, Illinois, recently devastated by tornadoes, people in the Philippines ravaged by the recent typhoon, and those still living, literally, in the aftermath of the 2011 triple disaster. My heart goes out to all of them today and always, and while I know they grieve and pine, too, they also find hope and carry on as best they can.

Me with the genki gardener!
And here's one gardener I had the pleasure of meeting this summer while volunteering in Minamisanriku. Settled on a high hill he lives in temporary housing and grows his vegetables along and up a chain link fence just out his back door. I know temperatures have dropped since these pictures were taken and the squash have long since been consumed, but it still inspires me. And it makes me thankful to know those I love are just a phone call away.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Tougan: Introducing Winter Melon

Tougan (winter melon) at Hosotani's natural farm near Nara.
October, 2013.

Tougan (winter melon) has been on my vegetable radar since our very first days in Japan. Large, oblong, and deep green, it is an attractive vegetable nearly irresistible to a curious eater. A neighbor down the road grows them, and each year I ponder a purchase but never quite got around to it. Their chokubaijo (direct sale stand) is a popular one despite its secluded location along the Tamagawajousui. It's best to arrive early and then politely duke it out with the local grandmothers for the choicest bouquet, pickles, and vegetables.) I've also seen it at various farmers markets around town, but somehow lugged one home. Tomiyama-san, manager of the Earth Day Market, even suggested a warm winter punch recipe made with red wine, cinnamon and other spices, that sorely tempted. Somehow I resisted.

This year, though, Hosotani-san, a natural farmer I had the great pleasure of meeting and interviewing during a recent visit to Nara Prefecture, gave me one as a parting gift. Even though it was slightly impractical, I took it with only the slightest resistance. It was an opportunity to finally try it, and his farm, which I also had the great pleasure of touring with he and his wife, was awe-inspiring. To say no on practical grounds seemed rude. I received it with gratitude.

My sister-in-law and I prepared it the next day for dinner. Back at Hamma Farm for another round of visiting and helping, the tougan was easy to incorporate into our meals. I made a big batch of asazuke, a word that literally translates as 'morning pickles' but stands for any quick pickle. The remainder landed in the curry we ate for breakfast the next day. Perfect.

A member of the cucurbit family (think cucumber), tougan vines ramble happily over the garden or clamor up a sturdy trellis with ease. The latter makes good use of space. Our neighbor grows a variety of other vegetables under the trellis that like the shade afforded by the tougan vines and leaves. Harvesting is a straight-forward process, too, with unblemished fruits hanging at head height on sturdy stems. (No yellow spot from sitting on the ground.)

Joy Larkcom writes in her classic Oriental Vegetables: The Complete Guide for the Gardening Cook (2007) that tougan "are the hallmark of Chinese communities all over the world." Like so many other things, though, Japan found this little lovely and made it its own. It gets plopped into soups, including the ever-present miso shiro, stir fries, and more. While its white flesh is reminiscent in taste and texture of a cucumber, it makes it a perfect companion for stronger flavored broths and sauces. (Larkcom also writes that tougan's flowers and leaves can be eaten.) It's smooth, waxy outer surface that sometimes gives it a hazy white look, means that it will keep for upwards of six months in a cool, dry place. Usually harvested in October, a family could count on tougan as a food source during a season of scarcity. Hence, the name 'winter melon.'

Tougan asazuke
1 quarter tougan, peeled and seeded
1.5 teaspoons pickling salt (or to taste)
1 half large yuzu (or to taste)
Togarashi (optional)

Cut the tougan into bite-sized pieces and sprinkle with the pickling salt. (Remember to a non-reactive container, such as glass, for making the pickles.) Cut the yuzu into pieces, removing seeds until your patience runs out. Cut togarashi into tiny pieces. Add both to tougan and salt mixture. Massage and mix with fingers until the salt is evenly spread and the salt begins to draw out fluid. Place a heavy lid on top of mixture to encourage liquid formation and pop the mixture in the refrigerator until dinner. Can be made an hour before eating or the day before. Keeps for about three days, give or take.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Tokyo Farmers Markets Saturday, November 23rd and Sunday, November 24th

My lovely sister-in-law and a farmer we met at one of Hida Takayama's morning markets.
Another beautiful weekend dawns and brings a round of the standard Tokyo markets, which should be plum full of autumn goodness. Get your fill of early daikon, winter greens, and tougan (winter melon), along with plenty of kaki (persimmons) for general eating, jamming, or turning into hoshigaki (dried persimmons). (For the latter, make sure you get the tannic variety. Sweet should work, but the tannic are the most commonly used.) Amezake (sweet sake made from the lees of the sake brewing process) should also be on hand to warm hands and tummies, and I'm betting there's plenty of scrumptious mochi (rice cakes, for lack of a better translation) freshly made and waiting to be grilled. Grab a backpack (you'll be glad you did!) and head out the door!

UN University Market
Every Saturday and Sunday*
*Check out the Bread Festival on Sunday, November 1st where a variety of sourdough and other breads will be ready for eating!
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

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 tracks in Kokobunji!
10am to 2pm

Yurakucho Farmer's Market
Every Saturday and Sunday
Smaller than the UNU Market, Yurakacho features a particular region of Japan each week along with an excellent selection of seasonal fruit and vegetables. Growers from nearby Chiba, Kamakura, and Saitama are also on hand to help fill the larder.
11am to 5pm
Directions: Turn left out of Yurakacho station and cross the courtyard toward Tokyo Kouku Keitan. Look for the fun under the overhang!

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

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thursday Snapshot: Praying Mantis Laying Eggs


While visiting Hosotani's natural farm near Nara a few weeks ago, we encountered this kamakiri (praying mantis) laying eggs in one of the fruit trees. Testament, if you ask me, of how great this place was. Vegetables couch in abundant greenery made up of weeds and other volunteer vegetables. Insect and animal life is apparent, but the crops suffer very little damage. It truly was one of the most beautiful farms I have ever seen.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Earth Day Market Tour Highlights

Image courtesty of Cynthia at AMJMX.
We couldn't have asked for a better day for Sunday's tour of the Earth Day Market with the Mexico-Japan Society. A perfectly sized group of about six, we wandered about the market sampling greens, various misos, and some of the most amazing bread ever. We chatted about recipes, new vegetables, how to use some of the grains and flours for sale there, and how to serve up satoimo (taro root) stem. (Sauted in miso and served over rice.) We bought tea, juice, and gave serious thought to which food truck we should choose for lunch. Perfect.

Check out the Mexico-Japan Society website for more photos and to see what other great fun their up to!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Tokyo Farmers Markets Saturday, November 16th and Sunday, November 17th

A lovely line-up of melons at one of Sapporo's regular markets.

Welcome to the most happening weekend for farmers markets in Tokyo! There's a fantastic selection of places to go, fruits and vegetables to sample and purchase, and recipes to be discovered. Just grab a good-sized bag (I recommend a backpack.) and head out the door! If you're looking for a little company at the market or feeling shy, then swing over to the Earth Day Market where I'll be walking people about, answering questions, and introducing produce and the folks that brought it to life. Should be fun!

Ebisu Market
Sunday, November 17th
Making up for missing last month apparently, the Ebisu Market is rocking it four (yes, four!) times this month. Don't miss the opportunity to head to a nifty part of the city where on these sweet Sundays you'll find farmers and producers galore. (One even comes from Okutama with a lovely array of vegetables and a vegetable-based spread that will knock your socks off.) Don't miss it!
11am to 5pm
Map

Sunday, November 17th*
I could go wax on forever about how great this market is and how important it is for the future of Japanese farming. Instead, I'll just insist that folks go and see for themselves what great things the market and these innovative growers are doing.
*I'll be leading a group tour here this month, so come and join us!
10am to 4pm, Rain or shine!

Nippori Farmer's Market
Saturday, November 16th and Sunday, November 17th
10am to 5pm
Another great market in the city found with a little help from friends, this one is sure to not disappoint. My first visit was wonderful despite cold temperatures and a smattering of rain. Plus, Tohoku growers are on hand sharing their best-of-the-best, so come on out to be part of the recovery and get something good to eat.
No map, but just head out the east exit and look for the green awnings!

Koenji Farmer's Market
Saturday, November 16th
A new market I spotted while riding the train on a Saturday morning into the city center. That circle of red awnings in front of the Za-Koenji Public Theatre could only mean one thing! Sure enough, I found a small group of area growers and producers, and the bounty surely continues!
11am - 5pm
Map

Saturday, November 16th
A unique event in the heart of the city that a vegetable loving geek like me wouldn't miss for the world. What better way to get the healthy vitamins and minerals you need to sustain an evening of karaoke and izakaya hopping?
5pm - 8pm

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

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 tracks in Kokobunji!
10am to 2pm

Yurakucho Farmer's Market
Every Saturday and Sunday
Smaller than the UNU Market, Yurakacho features a particular region of Japan each week along with an excellent selection of seasonal fruit and vegetables. Growers from nearby Chiba, Kamakura, and Saitama are also on hand to help fill the larder.
11am to 5pm
Directions: Turn left out of Yurakacho station and cross the courtyard toward Tokyo Kouku Keitan. Look for the fun under the overhang!

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

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thursday Snapshot: Printing blocks at Kyoto roketsu workshop

The Yamamoto's roketsu workshop walls are lined with rolling print blocks.

During my sister-in-law's visit to Japan, we, of course, went to Kyoto. We detoured from the usual temple-shrine-garden agenda to participate in a roketsu workshop. Over the course of two hours we drew and chatted and worked in companionable silence on our separate pieces. It was an amazing experience in a lovely spot. The workshop, run by the Yamamoto family, is filled with patterns, dyeing blocks, and the smell of hot wax and is beautifully utilitarian. We loved every minute there.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Antenna shop article in Metropolis Magazine

Freshly made sushi at the Ishikawa antenna shop in Yurakacho.
Read the article at Metropolis Magazine for the full scoop!
Rather than home to complicated technical gear, antenna shops in Tokyo refer to stores featuring a variety of foods and products found only in Japan's 47 prefectures. (Two notable and clever twists on this are Kogane-ya and d&Department, of course.) Treasure troves of culinary wonder, antenna shops provide "an open window to provincial Japan," said Lionel Dersot during an interview and he is so very right. Whether on one of Yukari Sakamoto's most excellent tours (also interviewed for the article) or wandering the aisles alone, visitors will find no end of delightful things to ponder, taste, and enjoy. Sakamoto and Dersot both adore the Okinawa shop while my favorite turned out to be Ishikawa's. (The butternut squash ice cream sealed the deal.) Read the full article at Metropolis then head out to find your favorite!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Earth Day Farmers Market Tour this weekend!

Meet Minowa Farms and try the rice!
Don't forget to sign up for this fun-filled market adventure this weekend! Email Robin and Diana directly to register or leave a comment here. (I promise not to publish your information.) You'll be glad you joined us!

Two new arrivals to Tokyo, Diana and Robin, are pretty excited about the good green stuff going on all around them here. So much so that they have joined up with the Mexico-Japan Society to create cross-cultural environmentally friendly series of events rooted in Diana's home country of Mexico and Robin's farm beginnings in Australia to share the pleasure in their findings with others. I think good things are in store for all of us!

And, I'm not saying that just because their first event features a farmers market tour with yours truly at the Earth Day Farmers Market on Sunday, November 17th. Mark your calendars, bring a bit of spending money, a backpack (Trust me. You'll be glad you did.), and an appetite. The market promises, as always, to be brimming with the seasons best grown in a manner healthy for the earth and the eater.

What's going to happen
We'll meet shortly before the market opens at 10am on the bridge that leads to Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park. I'll introduce myself, the market, and you all will introduce yourselves. Then we're off to meet the growers and producers, sample some seasonal scrumptousness and shop. I'll be loitering about to answer questions or help ask them, and then we'll unofficially gather for lunch. Doesn't that sound great?!?

Details
Sunday, November 17th
Earth Day Farmers Market Tour
10am to 12pm
(No charge, but be prepared to shop!)
RSVP by Sunday, November 10th (I know it's technically past, but try anway!)
RSVP and/or send questions to Robin and Diana

Friday, November 8, 2013

Tokyo Farmers Markets Saturday, November 9th and Sunday, November 10th

Lovely grapes from Ibaraki at the October Nippori Farmers Market.
These cooler days make for perfect wandering in Tokyo's farmers markets or even further afield. If viewing fall colors in Kyoto, do take the time time to head to Nishiki Ichiba, an extraordinary market street brimming with good foods and flavors. If in Hida Takayama, don't miss the two morning markets for good fun and a sample of local dishes and ingredients. Meanwhile, if Tokyo is the beat for the weekend, simply head out to one of these lovelies and enjoy the best the season has to offer thus far!

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

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 tracks in Kokobunji!
10am to 2pm

Yurakucho Farmer's Market
Every Saturday and Sunday
Smaller than the UNU Market, Yurakacho features a particular region of Japan each week along with an excellent selection of seasonal fruit and vegetables. Growers from nearby Chiba, Kamakura, and Saitama are also on hand to help fill the larder.
11am to 5pm
Directions: Turn left out of Yurakacho station and cross the courtyard toward Tokyo Kouku Keitan. Look for the fun under the overhang!

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

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thursday Snapshot: Squash Arbor in Saroma

Saroma's most amazing squash arbor.
Hokkaido, 2013

This past summer took us to Hokkaido as usual and found us wandering about via train and bus to catch up with friends new and old. One of those lovely folks lives in Saroma, a small seaside city we visited during our first year in Japan. Famous for its scallops as well as a long wild beach, we discovered squash are also well celebrated. (The Pumpkin Festival includes a parade, super rocking live band dancing party, fireworks, and an excellent selection of foods made with pumpkin.) Hence, the squash arbor pictured here where perhaps more than twenty varieties of the lovely autumn fruits grow and hang.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Hida Takayama farmers markets in Outdoor Japan's Autumn Traveler

Outdoor Japan Autumn Traveler, 2013
The latest issue of Outdoor Japan's print magazine is where you'll find my newest Market Watch column raving about the culinary gems to be sampled at Hida Takayama's two morning markets. (Yes, two! It is a slice of heaven.) A favorite spot that I will be venturing to next week to take in the fall colors, the markets are high on my agenda of things to do. Check out the Autumn Traveler (page nine) and then head on out!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Mottainai: Ume Hachimitsu and Umeshu Jam

Still cleaning out that shu closet! The latest result was a jam where I combined ume (plums) leftover from a jar of umeshu and a jar of umehachimitsu. The only change I made to the recipe below is that I used water rather than umehachimitsu. The result is a jam perfect with cheese, toast, or stirred into yogurt or oatmeal. Plus, it made a big batch - eight tiny jars and a half pint - which made it well worth the effort. Enjoy! - JB

 One of the leftovers of umehachimitsu are the plums or ume. Last year I made marmalade with the yuzu peels I removed from the yuzushu, but I never quite sorted out what to do with the ume from the hachimitsu or the umeshu. This year I decided to try making jam.

Remembering the damson jam served from the larder of good friends in England and those sampled at Ludlow, I perused a few recipes. These simple ones and this one for plum butter caught my imagination, but for the first batch I thought I would keep additions to a minimum. The flavor would be different as these weren't fresh dark damsons plucked from the tree by Daniel's Mill, but rather these little fatties had loitered in honey and vinegar for a handful of months. In the end, I based my experiment in the Ball Blue Book recipe for damson jam.

The resulting flavor is tart, salty, and sweet, and not quite what one might expect on morning toast. I think with cheese it would be lovely, although I am enjoying it very much on its own. It's also not an overly attractive jam - nothing like the octopus-resembling eggplant pickles - but it's still darn yummy.

Ume Hachimitsu Jam
1 kg ume from the bottom of the umehachimitsu jar
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup water*

Place ume, sugar, and water* in a saucepan, and slowly bring the mixture to a boil. Stir continuously until the sugar dissolves, and stir regularly to keep it from burning. Once it boils, then continue boiling rapidly until the jam reaches a gelling point. Remove it from the heat, and lade the hot jam into hot jars leaving a 1/4 inch head space. Process in a hot water bath canner for 15 minutes.

Caveats
Water - I opted to use some of the ume hachimitsu liquid for no reason other than the fact that it was on hand. It may have made it stickier and the flavor stronger overall. My next batch I will opt for the water and see what happens.

Pits - Ume are a stone fruit, and while some folks opt to leave them in I decided they represented a high enough dental hazard that I should get them out. The ume skin proved rather resilient even after a fair amount of cooking, so I brought out my antique potato masher from America. (Pictured with the pits at left.) It crushed the ume nicely, which released the stones for me to spoon out. My husband later took them to the office as a unique sweet treat, and a co-worker said the taste reminded her of tamarind.

Amount - By morning's end, I found myself looking at about three pints of jam. I was a little disappointed, to be honest, as I come from the land of big batches for big canners. Next year, I may commit a canning sin and simply double the recipe.

Friday, November 1, 2013

November Farmers Markets in Tokyo

Uyama-san, a wonderful organic farmer I met in Hokkaido this summer, with eggplant.

These are the perfect days for browsing  markets and planning what delectable seasonal goodness will fill the table for the evening meal. Don't be shy and try something new like tougan (winter melon) (recipe coming soon!), duck (another recipe coming soon!), new rice and the first of the new season's citrus. If you're still feeling shy, join me at the Earth Day Market on Sunday, November 17th for a guided tour. I'll most happily help you sort out seasonal favorites you never knew you had! And, check out the bread festival on November 1st at the UNU Market, too! Dear me, my mouth is watering already!

Ebisu Market
Saturday, November 3rd and Sunday, November 17th
Making up for missing last month apparently, the Ebisu Market is rocking it four (yes, four!) times this month. Don't miss the opportunity to head to a nifty part of the city where on these sweet Sundays you'll find farmers and producers galore. (One even comes from Okutama with a lovely array of vegetables and a vegetable-based spread that will knock your socks off.) Don't miss it!
11am to 5pm
Map

Sunday, November 17th*
I could go wax on forever about how great this market is and how important it is for the future of Japanese farming. Instead, I'll just insist that folks go and see for themselves what great things the market and these innovative growers are doing.
*I'll be leading a group tour here this month, so come and join us!
10am to 4pm, Rain or shine!

Nippori Farmer's Market
Saturday, November 16th and Sunday, November 17th
10am to 5pm
Another great market in the city found with a little help from friends, this one is sure to not disappoint. My first visit was wonderful despite cold temperatures and a smattering of rain. Plus, Tohoku growers are on hand sharing their best-of-the-best, so come on out to be part of the recovery and get something good to eat.
No map, but just head out the east exit and look for the green awnings!

Koenji Farmer's Market
Saturday, November 16th
A new market I spotted while riding the train on a Saturday morning into the city center. That circle of red awnings in front of the Za-Koenji Public Theatre could only mean one thing! Sure enough, I found a small group of area growers and producers, and the bounty surely continues!
11am - 5pm
Map

Saturday, November 16th
A unique event in the heart of the city that a vegetable loving geek like me wouldn't miss for the world. What better way to get the healthy vitamins and minerals you need to sustain an evening of karaoke and izakaya hopping?
5pm - 8pm

Every Saturday and Sunday*
*Check out the Bread Festival on Sunday, November 1st where a variety of sourdough and other breads will be ready for eating!
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

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 tracks in Kokobunji!
10am to 2pm

Yurakucho Farmer's Market
Every Saturday and Sunday
Smaller than the UNU Market, Yurakacho features a particular region of Japan each week along with an excellent selection of seasonal fruit and vegetables. Growers from nearby Chiba, Kamakura, and Saitama are also on hand to help fill the larder.
11am to 5pm
Directions: Turn left out of Yurakacho station and cross the courtyard toward Tokyo Kouku Keitan. Look for the fun under the overhang!

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