Friday, December 5, 2014

December Farmers Markets in Tokyo and Yokohama

My anpogaki teacher in Minami Alps. 
Where has the time gone? It seems only yesterday we finished harvesting the tomatoes and started the garden clean-up, and today I'm bundled up against the cold. Fuji-san is covered with snow, and the winter vegetables are coming in apace. I've done a bit of traveling, some writing, and lots of eating. All of it has been good, interesting, and fun. I'll share it as the month rolls out to bring everyone up to speed. Meanwhile, there is plenty of wonderful foodly stuff to be found at farmers markets this month. Markets are the perfect place to find gifts, if you ask me. None of us really needs any more stuff, but we do love to eat! It's the perfect excuse (as though one were really needed!) to sample, ask questions, and buy that dreamy jar of jam or perfectly golden loaf of bread. Go for it and happy holidays!

Ebisu Market
Sunday, December 7th and Sunday, December 21st
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.) It's worth noting, too, that Do One Good, an animal NPO will be on hand with some of the cutest dogs ever waiting to go home with you!
11am to 5pm
Map

Market of the Sun
Saturday, December 13th and Sunday, December 14th
The newest of Tokyo's farmers markets, Market of the Sun professes to be one of the largest, and this month looks to have a bit of an Italian theme, too. Cheese, anyone?. A short walk from Tsukiji Market and its wonderful surrounds, it's worth a stop for a selection of foodly and crafty items that rivals that at the UNU Market.
10am to 4pm
No map but step out of Kachidoki Station exits A4a and A4b

Koenji Farmer's Market
Saturday, December 20th
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

Nippori Farmer's Market
Saturday, December 20th and Sunday, December 21st
Another great market in the city found with a little help from friends, this one is sure to not disappoint. A small but lively market, particularly on Saturday, it is well worth the trip. 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!
10am to 5pm

Oiso Farmers Market
Sunday, December 21st
This little gem of a community shindig is one of the best things going outside of the Earth Day Market, and I don't say that lightly. A nice little community affair started a handful of years ago, it blossomed into a full-on monthly festival that just happens to feature Shonan area produce in its fresh, seasonal form as well as pickled, dried, and prepared-hot-in-a-bowl. In summer it turns into a night market, but in fall it will swing back to regular daylight hours. More than worth the trek down to see what's going on!
10am to 3pm
Oiso Port Building

Saturday, December 14th
I could go wax on forever about how great this market is and how important it is for the future of Japanese farming and global food security. Instead, I'll just insist that folks go and see for themselves what great things the market and these innovative growers are doing. This month the market will be a a three-day wonderland of organic and fair trade goodness not to be missed. Come frolic and enjoy!
10am to 4pm, Rain or shine!
Map

Futamatagawa Farmers Market - Yokohama
Every Friday
A charming little weekly market tucked conveniently just outside the turnstile at Futamatagawa Station in Yokohama where a nice selection of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables await. Joining them are baked goods, rice, miso, and all the other fixings one might need for the week or just a good snack. Plenty of Kanagawa goodies, too, so be sure to ask!
10am to 6pm
Look for the tables when you step out the gate!

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
Back up and running after a refurbishment of the market space, the Roppongi Farmers Market is as booming and bountiful as ever. Don't miss this chance to meet a grower from Tokyo's very own Kokobunji and sample seasonal bounty.
10am to 4pm (Usually. Do check their website for schedule fluctuations.)
Map

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!

Friday, October 31, 2014

November Farmers Markets in Tokyo and Yokohama

Kabu ready for nibbling!
November snuck in with a bit of cold wind and a streak of orange beginning to run across the mountains outside my window. The nearby rice fields are all harvested and turning green again with the little after sprouts. Some industrious growers have planted cabbage and haksai (Chinese cabbage) while other fields are given over to broccoli, daikon, and the usual round of winter vegetables. It is a joy to see those green leafy favorites popping up everywhere, which means they'll be at one of the below markets, too!

Ebisu Market

Sunday, November 2nd and Sunday, November 16th
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.) It's worth noting, too, that Do One Good, an animal NPO will be on hand with some of the cutest dogs ever waiting to go home with you!
11am to 5pm
Map

Market of the Sun
Saturday, November 8th and Sunday, November 9th
The newest of Tokyo's farmers markets, Market of the Sun professes to be one of the largest, and this month looks to have a bit of an Italian theme, too. Cheese, anyone?. A short walk from Tsukiji Market and its wonderful surrounds, it's worth a stop for a selection of foodly and crafty items that rivals that at the UNU Market.
10am to 4pm
No map but step out of Kachidoki Station exits A4a and A4b

Koenji Farmer's Market
Saturday, November 15th
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

Nippori Farmer's Market
Saturday, November 15th and Sunday, November 16th
Another great market in the city found with a little help from friends, this one is sure to not disappoint. A small but lively market, particularly on Saturday, it is well worth the trip. 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!
10am to 5pm

Oiso Farmers Market
Sunday, November 16th
This little gem of a community shindig is one of the best things going outside of the Earth Day Market, and I don't say that lightly. A nice little community affair started a handful of years ago, it blossomed into a full-on monthly festival that just happens to feature Shonan area produce in its fresh, seasonal form as well as pickled, dried, and prepared-hot-in-a-bowl. In summer it turns into a night market, but in fall it will swing back to regular daylight hours. More than worth the trek down to see what's going on!
10am to 3pm
Oiso Port Building

Saturday, November 22nd, Sunday November 23rd, and Monday, November 24th
I could go wax on forever about how great this market is and how important it is for the future of Japanese farming and global food security. Instead, I'll just insist that folks go and see for themselves what great things the market and these innovative growers are doing. This month the market will be a a three-day wonderland of organic and fair trade goodness not to be missed. Come frolic and enjoy!
10am to 4pm, Rain or shine!
Map

Futamatagawa Farmers Market - Yokohama
Every Friday
A charming little weekly market tucked conveniently just outside the turnstile at Futamatagawa Station in Yokohama where a nice selection of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables await. Joining them are baked goods, rice, miso, and all the other fixings one might need for the week or just a good snack. Plenty of Kanagawa goodies, too, so be sure to ask!
10am to 6pm
Look for the tables when you step out the gate!

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
Back up and running after a refurbishment of the market space, the Roppongi Farmers Market is as booming and bountiful as ever. Don't miss this chance to meet a grower from Tokyo's very own Kokobunji and sample seasonal bounty.
10am to 4pm (Usually. Do check their website for schedule fluctuations.)
Map

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!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Tokyo and Yokohama Area Farmers Markets: Saturday, October 25th and Sunday, October 26th


Deep in the throes of October should find the area market tables groaning with autumn produce, freshly harvested rice, and the last of the summer goodies. Baked goods and lovely picklely bits, too, abound at these markets, so don't be shy about sampling and finding a new favorite. Some of the most innovative folks in the kitchen also happen to work the fields. There is more than a little bit of gastronomical fun to be had out there!

Futamatagawa Farmers Market - Yokohama
Every Friday
A charming little weekly market tucked conveniently just outside the turnstile at Futamatagawa Station in Yokohama where a nice selection of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables await. Joining them are baked goods, rice, miso, and all the other fixings one might need for the week or just a good snack. Plenty of Kanagawa goodies, too, so be sure to ask!
10am to 6pm
Look for the tables when you step out the gate!

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
Back up and running after a refurbishment of the market space, the Roppongi Farmers Market is as booming and bountiful as ever. Don't miss this chance to meet a grower from Tokyo's very own Kokobunji and sample seasonal bounty.
10am to 4pm (Usually. Do check their website for schedule fluctuations.)
Map

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!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Tokyo and Yokohama Area Farmers Markets: Saturday, October 18th and Sunday, October 19th


Welcome to the most farmers-markety weekend of the month! If you missed last weekend's Market of the Sun with its Italian theme, head on over to Ebisu to enjoy all sorts of traditional vegetables, fruits, recipes, and products. There is heaps of fun to be had, and not just with pasta, of course. And don't forget the Oiso Market returns to its morning schedule of fun in the sun at the port!

Ebisu Market
Saturday, October 18th and Sunday October 19th
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.) The weekend event promises to feature Italian produce, foods and more. It's worth noting, too, that Do One Good, an animal NPO will be on hand with some of the cutest dogs ever waiting to go home with you!
11am to 5pm
Map

Koenji Farmer's Market
Saturday, October 18th
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

Nippori Farmer's Market
Saturday, October 18th and Sunday, October 19th
Another great market in the city found with a little help from friends, this one is sure to not disappoint. A small but lively market, particularly on Saturday, it is well worth the trip. 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!
10am to 5pm

Oiso Farmers Market
Sunday, October 19th
This little gem of a community shindig is one of the best things going outside of the Earth Day Market, and I don't say that lightly. A nice little community affair started a handful of years ago, it blossomed into a full-on monthly festival that just happens to feature Shonan area produce in its fresh, seasonal form as well as pickled, dried, and prepared-hot-in-a-bowl. In summer it turns into a night market, but in fall it will swing back to regular daylight hours. More than worth the trek down to see what's going on!
10am to 3pm
Oiso Port Building

Futamatagawa Farmers Market - Yokohama
Every Friday
A charming little weekly market tucked conveniently just outside the turnstile at Futamatagawa Station in Yokohama where a nice selection of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables await. Joining them are baked goods, rice, miso, and all the other fixings one might need for the week or just a good snack. Plenty of Kanagawa goodies, too, so be sure to ask!
10am to 6pm
Look for the tables when you step out the gate!

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
Back up and running after a refurbishment of the market space, the Roppongi Farmers Market is as booming and bountiful as ever. Don't miss this chance to meet a grower from Tokyo's very own Kokobunji and sample seasonal bounty.
10am to 4pm (Usually. Do check their website for schedule fluctuations.)
Map

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!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Tokyo and Yokohama Area Farmers Markets: Saturday, October 11th and Sunday, October 12th

Natural farming organization at UNU Farmers Market. Stop by and say hello!

A little rain, a little sun and gradually cooling temperatures means October is well underway. The change in seasons, though, only means a change in the available offerings at the area markets. Head on out to find the best produce around from growers more than happy to chat about recipes, growing techniques, and just about anything under the sun. See you at the market!

Market of the Sun
Saturday, October 11th and Sunday, October 12th
The newest of Tokyo's farmers markets, Market of the Sun professes to be one of the largest, and this month looks to have a bit of an Italian theme, too. Cheese, anyone?. A short walk from Tsukiji Market and its wonderful surrounds, it's worth a stop for a selection of foodly and crafty items that rivals that at the UNU Market.
10am to 4pm
No map but step out of Kachidoki Station exits A4a and A4b

Futamatagawa Farmers Market - Yokohama
Every Friday
A charming little weekly market tucked conveniently just outside the turnstile at Futamatagawa Station in Yokohama where a nice selection of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables await. Joining them are baked goods, rice, miso, and all the other fixings one might need for the week or just a good snack. Plenty of Kanagawa goodies, too, so be sure to ask!
10am to 6pm
Look for the tables when you step out the gate!

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
Back up and running after a refurbishment of the market space, the Roppongi Farmers Market is as booming and bountiful as ever. Don't miss this chance to meet a grower from Tokyo's very own Kokobunji and sample seasonal bounty.
10am to 4pm (Usually. Do check their website for schedule fluctuations.)
Map

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!

Friday, October 3, 2014

October Farmers Markets in Tokyo and Yokohama Region


Edible houzuki (ground cherries) at the UNU Market.
Best 100 yen ever spent!
October comes in with that low slant of light and more than a few hints of rain as typhoons seems to still be coming and going. Autumn crops - squash, sweet potatoes, and myoga - are in while summer ones - tomatoes, eggplants, and okra - are finishing up. The rice harvest, too, is rolling in, so look for the seasons first on the tables this weekend. Moments of note are that the Earth Day Market should be back on this month and that the Oiso Market returns to its morning schedule. Happy nibbling one and all!

Tokaidaigakumae Organic Market
No word yet on a market for this month after a well-deserved August break.  Ginger and Pickles is worth a visit any time, though!

Ebisu Market
Sunday, October 5th. Saturday, October 18th and Sunday October 19th
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.) The weekend event promises to feature Italian produce, foods and more. It's worth noting, too, that Do One Good, an animal NPO will be on hand with some of the cutest dogs ever waiting to go home with you!
11am to 5pm
Map

Market of the Sun
Saturday, October 11th and Sunday, October 12th
The newest of Tokyo's farmers markets, Market of the Sun professes to be one of the largest, and this month looks to have a bit of an Italian theme, too. Cheese, anyone?. A short walk from Tsukiji Market and its wonderful surrounds, it's worth a stop for a selection of foodly and crafty items that rivals that at the UNU Market.
10am to 4pm
No map but step out of Kachidoki Station exits A4a and A4b

Koenji Farmer's Market
Saturday, October 18th
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

Nippori Farmer's Market
Saturday, October 18th and Sunday, October 19th
Another great market in the city found with a little help from friends, this one is sure to not disappoint. A small but lively market, particularly on Saturday, it is well worth the trip. 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!
10am to 5pm

Oiso Farmers Market
Sunday, October 19th
This little gem of a community shindig is one of the best things going outside of the Earth Day Market, and I don't say that lightly. A nice little community affair started a handful of years ago, it blossomed into a full-on monthly festival that just happens to feature Shonan area produce in its fresh, seasonal form as well as pickled, dried, and prepared-hot-in-a-bowl. In summer it turns into a night market, but in fall it will swing back to regular daylight hours. More than worth the trek down to see what's going on!
10am to 3pm
Oiso Port Building

Sunday, October 5th
I could go wax on forever about how great this market is and how important it is for the future of Japanese farming and global food security. Instead, I'll just insist that folks go and see for themselves what great things the market and these innovative growers are doing. This month the market will be a bit of its wonderful normalness. If something exciting comes up, though, I promise to alert folks. Planning is in the works, so who knows what Fairtrade excitement might be in the air?
10am to 4pm, Rain or shine!
Map

Futamatagawa Farmers Market - Yokohama
Every Friday
A charming little weekly market tucked conveniently just outside the turnstile at Futamatagawa Station in Yokohama where a nice selection of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables await. Joining them are baked goods, rice, miso, and all the other fixings one might need for the week or just a good snack. Plenty of Kanagawa goodies, too, so be sure to ask!
10am to 6pm
Look for the tables when you step out the gate!

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
Back up and running after a refurbishment of the market space, the Roppongi Farmers Market is as booming and bountiful as ever. Don't miss this chance to meet a grower from Tokyo's very own Kokobunji and sample seasonal bounty.
10am to 4pm (Usually. Do check their website for schedule fluctuations.)
Map

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, September 25, 2014

Thursday Snapshot: Tiny Jizo in HIda Takayama

Tiny jizo statue in Hida Takayama.
Last year while my sister-in-law and I roamed the markets of Hida Takayama, we spotted this charming Jizo statue and friends at a local shrine. Despite the cliche, I will say I was utterly enchanted.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Vermicomposting over at Ecotwaza

Photo courtesy of James Kemp at grege.
I am a big fan of worms, and I'm a big fan of compost. So, it was with great pleasure that I penned this month's piece at Ecotwaza about vermicomposting. Thanks to James Kemp at grege, importer to Japan of the Can-O-Worms vermicomposter,  for his lovely interview and photos, too!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Tokyo and Yokohama Area Farmers Markets: Saturday, September 20th and Sunday, September 21st

Lovely and delicious heirloom appleas at the Portage Farmers Market in Wisconsin.
UPDATE: THE EARTH DAY FARMERS MARKET HAS BEEN CANCELLED FOR THIS MONTH. I'm sorry to say that this is true. Organizers decided it would be best to hold off for this month in light of worries about dengue fever. They look forward to seeing us all in October, though!

Welcome to the most farmers-market-y weekend of the month! A glorious selection of spots to go for the foodly minded among us. Groaning tables abound at each and every one, although this weekend is the last for Oiso's Night Market. A lovely extravaganza of food, art, and music it should be given serious consideration. The other usual culprits surely will be as terrific as ever. Check out a recipe, make a list, and head on out!

Ebisu Market
Sunday, September 21st
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.) It's worth noting, too, that Do One Good, an animal NPO will be on hand with some of the cutest dogs ever waiting to go home with you!
11am to 5pm
Map

Koenji Farmer's Market
Saturday, September 20th
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

Nippori Farmer's Market
Saturday, September 20th and Sunday, September 21st
Another great market in the city found with a little help from friends, this one is sure to not disappoint. A small but lively market, particularly on Saturday, it is well worth the trip. 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!
10am to 5pm

Oiso Farmers Market
Sunday, September 21st*
This little gem of a community shindig is one of the best things going outside of the Earth Day Market, and I don't say that lightly. A nice little community affair started a handful of years ago, it blossomed into a full-on monthly festival that just happens to feature Shonan area produce in its fresh, seasonal form as well as pickled, dried, and prepared-hot-in-a-bowl. In summer it turns into a night market, but in fall it will swing back to regular daylight hours. More than worth the trek down to see what's going on!
5pm - 9pm
Oiso Port Building
*Last night market for the year!

Sunday, September 21st
I could go wax on forever about how great this market is and how important it is for the future of Japanese farming and global food security. Instead, I'll just insist that folks go and see for themselves what great things the market and these innovative growers are doing. This month the market will be a bit of its wonderful normalness. If something exciting comes up, though, I promise to alert folks. Planning is in the works, so who knows what Fairtrade excitement might be in the air?
10am to 4pm, Rain or shine!
Map

Futamatagawa Farmers Market - Yokohama
Every Friday
A charming little weekly market tucked conveniently just outside the turnstile at Futamatagawa Station in Yokohama where a nice selection of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables await. Joining them are baked goods, rice, miso, and all the other fixings one might need for the week or just a good snack. Plenty of Kanagawa goodies, too, so be sure to ask!
10am to 6pm
Look for the tables when you step out the gate!

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
Back up and running after a refurbishment of the market space, the Roppongi Farmers Market is as booming and bountiful as ever. Don't miss this chance to meet a grower from Tokyo's very own Kokobunji and sample seasonal bounty.
10am to 4pm (Usually. Do check their website for schedule fluctuations.)
Map

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, September 18, 2014

Thursday Snapshot: Making Kuntan

Making kuntan after the rice harvest.
Farming is my great joy and pleasure, so last year when we were able to help harvest rice in Nagano I jumped at the chance. Before and after our days work I spent plenty of time roaming the village to see how other people did it and what other things were happening. One of the most common sights was this: the making of kuntan. The momigara (rice hulls) are piled up around a fire, which slowly charcoalizes them. The black hulls are then spread on the fields in spring to help melt the snow and arm the soil while also giving it a nice energy boost. Brilliant.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Bassanova Ramen Review in Metropolis Magazine

Scrumptiousness defined at Bassanova Ramen.
Ramen is not one of my favorite foods, but because my favorite spouse has a particular passion for it I end up eating a fair amount. One could say that I am something of an accidental expert.

One of my top three ramens is Bassanova in Shindaita. (I'm salivating now just thinking about it.) So it seemed only logical that I would write a review of it for Metropolis Magazine. Iitadakimasu!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Tokyo and Yokohama Area Farmers Markets: Saturday, September 13th and Sunday, September 14th

Glorious bouquet at the Vang Family Farm table.
Portage Farmers Market, Wisconsin.
A lovely holiday weekend awaits with a nice selection of the usual markets ready to serve up fresh seasonal vegetables, fruits and more to those venturing out. Eggplant, squash, cucumbers, and tomatoes should still be available, although keep an eye out for seedlings of some winter vegetables. Nashi, too, should be making a strong showing, and that should not be missed. My mouth is watering at the thought...

Futamatagawa Farmers Market - Yokohama
Every Friday
A charming little weekly market tucked conveniently just outside the turnstile at Futamatagawa Station in Yokohama where a nice selection of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables await. Joining them are baked goods, rice, miso, and all the other fixings one might need for the week or just a good snack. Plenty of Kanagawa goodies, too, so be sure to ask!
10am to 6pm
Look for the tables when you step out the gate!

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
Back up and running after a refurbishment of the market space, the Roppongi Farmers Market is as booming and bountiful as ever. Don't miss this chance to meet a grower from Tokyo's very own Kokobunji and sample seasonal bounty.
10am to 4pm (Usually. Do check their website for schedule fluctuations.)
Map

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, September 11, 2014

Thursday Snapshot: Blooming Port-a-potties


Morning glory curtain
I have long stated that my favorite toilet ever was a toilet set on a hillside behind my friend's house in Guatemala. There were no walls or roof, just me and the valley swooping away before while the far green mountains ran along the other side. If it rained, I took an umbrella and sat. If it was sunny, I wore a hat.

The entrance.
This set of port-a-potties comes in at a close second, though, with its drapery of cool green leaves and bright blue blossoms. I gave serious thought to 'taking a rest' here even though I had no real need. Across the street from an elementary school and next to a mechanic's shop, I am sure it is something of a neighborhood constitutional institution.

Friday, September 5, 2014

September Tokyo and Yokohama Area Farmers Markets

Casing out the heirloom tomatoes at the Portage Farmers Market in Wisconsin.
September arrives with a bit of heat, a bit of rain and wind, and hopefully will round out with some cooler temperatures and bright days. We've been wining our way about the American Midwest savoring good beer, good food, a few early apples, and enjoying our first summer in six years. Delightful and wonderful barely cover how wonderful it has been. However, I am looking forward to getting back to the markets here and seeing what's happening. See you there!

Tokaidaigakumae Organic Market
No word yet on a market for this month after a well-deserved August break.  Ginger and Pickles is worth a visit any time, though!

Ebisu Market
Sunday, September 7th and Sunday, September 21st
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.) It's worth noting, too, that Do One Good, an animal NPO will be on hand with some of the cutest dogs ever waiting to go home with you!
11am to 5pm
Map

Market of the Sun
Saturday, September 6th and Sunday, September 7th
The newest of Tokyo's farmers markets, Market of the Sun professes to be one of the largest. A short walk from Tsukiji Market and its wonderful surrounds, it's worth a stop for a selection of foodly and crafty items that rivals that at the UNU Market.
10am to 4pm
No map but step out of Kachidoki Station exits A4a and A4b

Koenji Farmer's Market
Saturday, September 20th
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

Nippori Farmer's Market
Saturday, September 20th and Sunday, September 21st
Another great market in the city found with a little help from friends, this one is sure to not disappoint. A small but lively market, particularly on Saturday, it is well worth the trip. 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!
10am to 5pm

Oiso Farmers Market
Sunday, September 21st*
This little gem of a community shindig is one of the best things going outside of the Earth Day Market, and I don't say that lightly. A nice little community affair started a handful of years ago, it blossomed into a full-on monthly festival that just happens to feature Shonan area produce in its fresh, seasonal form as well as pickled, dried, and prepared-hot-in-a-bowl. In summer it turns into a night market, but in fall it will swing back to regular daylight hours. More than worth the trek down to see what's going on!
5pm - 9pm
Oiso Port Building
*Last night market for the year!

Sunday, September 21st
I could go wax on forever about how great this market is and how important it is for the future of Japanese farming and global food security. Instead, I'll just insist that folks go and see for themselves what great things the market and these innovative growers are doing. This month the market will be a bit of its wonderful normalness. If something exciting comes up, though, I promise to alert folks. Planning is in the works, so who knows what Fairtrade excitement might be in the air?
10am to 4pm, Rain or shine!
Map

Futamatagawa Farmers Market - Yokohama
Every Friday
A charming little weekly market tucked conveniently just outside the turnstile at Futamatagawa Station in Yokohama where a nice selection of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables await. Joining them are baked goods, rice, miso, and all the other fixings one might need for the week or just a good snack. Plenty of Kanagawa goodies, too, so be sure to ask!
10am to 6pm
Look for the tables when you step out the gate!

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
Back up and running after a refurbishment of the market space, the Roppongi Farmers Market is as booming and bountiful as ever. Don't miss this chance to meet a grower from Tokyo's very own Kokobunji and sample seasonal bounty.
10am to 4pm (Usually. Do check their website for schedule fluctuations.)
Map

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, September 4, 2014

Thursday Snapshot: Crocosmia or the lovely orange flower

Crocosmia crocosmiliflora in bloom
This little orange bloomer is a member of the iris family that started out in South Africa and has since wandered the globe in ever varying forms. It is not a native, of course, of Japan, but can be found in almost every garden. I do love those cheerful blooms, a hallmark of summer that I enjoy inifinitly more than the oppressive heat and humidity. September will see them start to fade, but I'll eagerly search them out next year when summer drives me out in search of ice cream.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Thursday Snapshot: Saroma's Pumpkin Arch

Saroma's pumpkin arch heavy with fruit.
Last September we ventured north to Hokkaido to say goodbye to a dear friend, visit others, and together remember the joy and adventure we all shared. One of our stops included Saroma, a town that has an utterly fantastic pumpkin festival each year. And let me just say, they know how to celebrate a vegetable: parades, live music, games, fireworks, and, of course, heaps of lovely pumpkin-based foods.

This year we will be in America visiting family and friends, meaning that our annual trek to our favorite place in Japan will be delayed. It feels odd to not be biking the seashore or hiking in the mountains, but we will plan to return again in the winter. Until then, Ezo!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thursday Snapshot: Mushroom

Freshly showered!
Again spotted while out on a hike near our place in Kanagawa this little fellow was too colorful and robust not to snap. A morning shower left the path still damp, which made the trail a bit slippery but ever brighter in color. I was happy to pause to capture this blushing bloomer.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thursday Snapshot: Negjibana (sprial flower) in the garden

Nejibana (twisting flower) in my garden.
This lovely flower, perhaps no taller than 7cm, greeted me one morning in early July as I walked in the garden at our place in Kanagawa. A member of the orchid family, Nejibana (twisting flower) is a member of the Spiranthes family. Relatives can be found globally, although it seems the Japanese branch of the family prefers pink.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Thursday Snapshot: Ajisai (Hydrangea) in bloom

Ajisai (hydrangea) in bloom in early July.

Ajisai (hydrangea) are long done, but this variety was too interesting to not share. Spotted on a hike near our home in Kanagawa, this one featured the tiny and slightly curled blooms seen here. The resulting visual texture intrigued my fellow hikers enough that I had to wait in line to snap this.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Compost: How to use compost

Happy impatiens with their compost home.
Even if growing space is tight, a compost bin can make a big difference to a garden. It is well worth setting up, whether homemade or a snazzy purchased one, for the benefits it offers. It means less garbage to the landfill, which also means fewer purchased garbage bags. It means less potting soil, and it definitely eliminates the need for inorganic fertilizers. (These are made from petroleum products, which are not healthy or delicious for the soil or the grower.)

Compost can be used in containers as well as in the garden as a mulch, as a soil additive, and as a tea. It brings life giving microbes and other creatures to plants and places in the garden that may be in dire need. It provides hearty nutrition for plants, which in turn makes them healthier and disease-resistant.

Spread a layer of compost around established garden plants for a nutrition boost. Top it with standard mulch (straw, grass clippings, or weeds with their roots turned up to the sun) for weed suppression that also feeds the soil, retains moisture, and helps regulate temperature. A good fall practice is to spread a layer of it on the garden and top it off with leaves, straw, and a bit of manure. The compost will import microbes, fungi, and other critters who will help break down the layers into beautiful soil that will be ready for the spring.

Mix it in with soil before planting in the garden or in containers. The nutrition and life it brings will help support the plants throughout the coming season and beyond. Containers with a bit of compost added regularly will maintain a heathy level of nutrition throughout the season. It can also be added to old potting soil to rejuvenate it for the next growing season.

Compost tea is made by simply adding compost to water. Aerobic (oxygen-added) and anaerobic (non-oxygen) varieties exist. The latter requires a bit of effort and equipment, but makes a lovely beverage for plants who can absorb nutrients through their leaves.

Next: Composting and the urban gardener
Previous: Compost defined; How to make compost

Friday, August 1, 2014

August Tokyo and Yokohama Region Farmers Markets

Two young farmers from Aizu Wakamatsu at the Nippori Farmers Market.
Even as I type out this schedule the cicadas are singing and the temperatures, too, hum along at steady pitch. It does not bear mentioning that the humidity is also right up there. Tomatoes, basil, beans, and other summer treats are enjoying every moment of this, although I cannot say that I share their sentiment. However, as I much cold spicy cucumber or sip a cold glass of umehachimitsu I find relief. Venture out with hat, backpack, sunscreen and cold refreshment of choice to one of these fantastic markets to savor the heat!

Tokaidaigakumae Organic Market
Sunday, August 3rd
This fledgling market is worth a visit, particularly for those out in this neck of the woods, not only for the diverse selection of fresh vegetables and fruits, but for the awesome venue. Ginger and Pickles is easily one of the best little secrets around, and visitors can find both excellent local produce and some scrumptious vegan fare. Roll in early to shop and hang out for some leisurely munching!
11am to 5pm
Turn right out of the ticket gates. Turn left and go down the stairs (or the ramp) and keep going straight until you run into Ginger and Pickles on your left.

Ebisu Market
Sunday, August 3rd and Sunday, August 17th
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.) It's worth noting, too, that Do One Good, an animal NPO will be on hand with some of the cutest dogs ever waiting to go home with you!
11am to 5pm
Map

Market of the Sun
Saturday, August 2nd and Sunday, August 3rd
The newest of Tokyo's farmers markets, Market of the Sun professes to be one of the largest. A short walk from Tsukiji Market and its wonderful surrounds, it's worth a stop for a selection of foodly and crafty items that rivals that at the UNU Market.
10am to 4pm
No map but step out of Kachidoki Station exits A4a and A4b

Koenji Farmer's Market
Saturday, August 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

Nippori Farmer's Market
Saturday, August 16th and Sunday, August 17th*
Another great market in the city found with a little help from friends, this one is sure to not disappoint. A small but lively market, particularly on Saturday, it is well worth the trip. 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!
10am to 5pm

Oiso Farmers Market
Sunday, August 17th
This little gem of a community shindig is one of the best things going outside of the Earth Day Market, and I don't say that lightly. A nice little community affair started a handful of years ago, it blossomed into a full-on monthly festival that just happens to feature Shonan area produce in its fresh, seasonal form as well as pickled, dried, and prepared-hot-in-a-bowl. In summer it turns into a night market, but in fall it will swing back to regular daylight hours. More than worth the trek down to see what's going on!
5pm - 9pm
Oiso Port Building

Sunday, August 3rd
I could go wax on forever about how great this market is and how important it is for the future of Japanese farming and global food security. Instead, I'll just insist that folks go and see for themselves what great things the market and these innovative growers are doing. This month the market will be a bit of its wonderful normalness. If something exciting comes up, though, I promise to alert folks. Planning is in the works, so who knows what Fairtrade excitement might be in the air?
10am to 4pm, Rain or shine!
Map

Futamatagawa Farmers Market - Yokohama
Every Friday
A charming little weekly market tucked conveniently just outside the turnstile at Futamatagawa Station in Yokohama where a nice selection of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables await. Joining them are baked goods, rice, miso, and all the other fixings one might need for the week or just a good snack. Plenty of Kanagawa goodies, too, so be sure to ask!
10am to 6pm
Look for the tables when you step out the gate!

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
Back up and running after a refurbishment of the market space, the Roppongi Farmers Market is as booming and bountiful as ever. Don't miss this chance to meet a grower from Tokyo's very own Kokobunji and sample seasonal bounty.
10am to 4pm (Usually. Do check their website for schedule fluctuations.)
Map

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, July 31, 2014

Thursday Snapshot: Praying Mantis in the Garden

Watch out! Praying mantis on the hunt.
This little fellow was spotted roaming about near my new garden in Kanagawa. Tiny but fierce and ready to feast on any unwanted critters that come near my tomatoes, beans, ginger, and zucchini. There's plenty of places for him to hide as I've left many things grow around my cardboard garden in an attempt to see what will happen. So far, things are responding well to their external green companions, enjoying the shade, pollinators, and other beneficials like this guy.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Compost: How to make it

Our lovely compost bowl.
Second in a series on compost - what it is, how to do it, and how to use it. A special entry for urban growers will also be included along with a list of further resources.

Compost usually begins in the kitchen. A bowl lined with newspaper (carbon) gets filled up with vegetable an fruit scraps (nitrogen). This in turn gets transferred to a bucket also lined with newspaper on the porch. The newspaper provides carbon, but it helps absorb liquids, which keeps the bucket and bowl relatively tidy. The bowl is turned upside down to empty it and the newspaper lands on top to make a nice lid. This hides it from the watchful eye of our neighborhood crows and makes it less shocking for visitors.

The bucket in turn gets transferred to a bin near the garden. In Tokyo, my two bins were made of chicken wire and poles, which allowed air and water to move through freely. In Michigan, the bins were made of old pallets, which also allowed air and water to move through freely. Water and air are pivotal for the assorted creatures that will be crafting the compost. Water helps them travel within the pile and keeps them alive, just as it does the plants and the gardener, so they can do their work. Air, of course, is what these creatures breathe. Carbon - newspaper, leaves, twigs, cardboard, etc. - also helps with air and water flow in the pile. These chunkier items then create little pockets that allow creatures move about as they snack, but also allows them to find the oxygen and water they need to survive.

In Japan, round plastic green bins with lids are popular compost bins. These are tidy and attractive and relatively effective; however, their biggest problem is the lid. Water and air, as mentioned above, crucial for the survival of the decomposers, cannot enter if that tight-fitting lid is in place. Neighbors and gardeners alike worry about the contents getting smelly or attracting animals; however, a healthy, active compost bin shouldn’t smell. If their isn’t enough air and water, the activity becomes anaerobic. Decomposition will still occur, but alcohols (of which, according to Lowenfels and Lewis, one part per million will kill plant cells) will be produced. Take the lid off.

Animals may come, but in my experience in rural Michigan, Tokyo, and now Kanagawa, they have not been a problem. If the bin is smelly, animals will be attracted; however, most of them eat in place. Pigeons and other birds frolic and nibble, tamping down the contents and adding their digestive process to the contents. Other creatures may come, but they won’t stay. The garden and bin will be relatively active places, which makes them unattractive homes. If decomposition is going well, the pile should be too hot for comfortable living.

Next: How to use compost
Previous: Compost defined

Friday, July 25, 2014

Tokyo and Yokohama Region Farmers Markets: Saturday, July 26th and Sunday, July 27th

A young farmer at Nagoya's Organic Farmers Market.
As Obon Season approaches even the regularly scheduled markets begin to waiver a bit. Traditionally a time to return to ancestral homes to welcome the ghosts of ancestors, it is a season of traveling and welcoming, feasting and remembering. Farmers especially begin to turn their attention to preparing for relatives returning from cities or the afterlife, as the case may be, who often come back to their home, the family farm. It is a precious time for families, and as such, it means regular markets get rescheduled and vendors may be scarce. The proceeds from the field land on their table at home. Do venture out, but check the schedule to make sure you find the tomato you dream of and the bag of tsurumurasaki before it disappears!

Futamatagawa Farmers Market - Yokohama
Every Friday
A charming little weekly market tucked conveniently just outside the turnstile at Futamatagawa Station in Yokohama where a nice selection of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables await. Joining them are baked goods, rice, miso, and all the other fixings one might need for the week or just a good snack. Plenty of Kanagawa goodies, too, so be sure to ask!
10am to 6pm
Look for the tables when you step out the gate!

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
Back up and running after a refurbishment of the market space, the Roppongi Farmers Market is as booming and bountiful as ever. Don't miss this chance to meet a grower from Tokyo's very own Kokobunji and sample seasonal bounty.
10am to 4pm (Usually. Do check their website for schedule fluctuations.)
Map

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, July 24, 2014

Thursday Snapshot: Yamayuri or Mountain Lilies

Yamayuri (mountain lily) snapped recently on a trail near our house.
 Yamayuri (mountain lilies) are some of the most dramatic of Japan's wildflowers. The end of rainy season marks the end of ajisai (hydrangea), another native plant here, and the beginning of these tall, slim beauties. Their time will be fleeting, but well worth the trek out to the mountains and foothills to catch a glimpse of them lighting up the forest floor.

A close-up of the decadent bloom.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Compost: A Primer

My compost bins when I arrived at our new place.
Compost is a gardener and farmers gold, and is probably one of the best things we can do for our planet much less our soil. Yet, for many gardeners it remains something of a mystery. The questions I often hear are: How do I make it? How do I use it? What exactly is so great about it? What can I compost? Here’s a quick primer to get folks started on making their own and putting it to good use. 

What is compost?

Compost is essentially a crumbly black soil-like material that results when organic matter (leaves, food waste, fish bones, coffee grounds and the filters, grass clippings, etc.) is broken down by assorted organisms living in the soil. The process tends to be rather slow, but like many good things, it is worth the wait. A teaspoon of compost, according to Lowenfels and Lewis in their classic, Teaming with Microbes, contains “up to a billion bacteria, 400 to 900 feet (150 to 300 meters) of fungal hyphae, 10,000 to 50,000 protozoa, and 30 to 300 nematodes.” While that might sound a little scary, it shouldn’t. Healthy soil is very much alive with all sorts of things that quietly go about their business, literally and figuratively creating the foundation for our lives. Compost also comes with other critters like worms as well as the assorted minerals and nutrients plants need to lead healthy, robust lives. (Here when I say plants I don’t just mean vegetables, but I’m also talking about trees, grass, flowers, shrubs, and herbs to name but a few.) It is a life-giving substance that teems with life itself. It is easily the best thing a grower at any scale can give to their soil and plants.

What to compost?

Technically, any organic material can be composted. This includes coffee filters, newspaper, cardboard, kitchen scraps, tea bags, paper plates, grass clippings, garden waste, and fish bits and bones. Old cotton and wool rugs and t-shirts, too, have found their way to my bin with good effect; however, it is worth noting that these were bins set in the soil. Certainly, there are those who would have a longer and a shorter list than that, but for my purposes these items work well. I do make certain exceptions at different times, such as using garden waste and grass clippings as mulch, but that is just another form of composting in a different place.

There is a great deal of talk about C:N (Carbon to Nitrogen) ratios in a compost pile that can seem intimidating to beginners. Carbon comes in the form of leaves, woody stems, momigara (rice hulls), soba hulls, straw, as well as newspaper and cardboard. This keeps the engines running, so to speak, of the decomposers in the soil. Just like runners before a race, the decomposers use the carbon in the soil to keep their energy levels steady. Nitrogen goes in as fresh grass clippings, kitchen waste, and urine. It helps the decomposers make the enzymes and proteins that let them process the organic matter.

If there is too much carbon, the microbes use up all the nitrogen and can’t produce the enzymes and proteins to break down the carbon. The breakdown process will slow down until the balance is restored. Too much nitrogen, and the microbes will focus on eating it and leave the carbon for later. A balance then, is needed to keep the system running.

Composting is an art as much as a science, so being overly fussy about how much of what goes in isn’t necessary unless the gardener wants it to be. Lowenfels and Lewis among others offer excellent advice on tailoring compost for specific purposes, such as trees versus vegetables versus grass, which is worth knowing but doesn’t have to be strictly followed. Gardeners should simply begin and see what happens.

Next: How to make compost