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Showing posts from January, 2014

February Farmers Markets in Tokyo

Weirdly seasonal this time of year, greenhouse-grown strawberries. Their red color signals celebration making them a popular gift. February is rolling in with bright skies and cold temperatures, but so far none of snow that often arrives about this time each year. A few January days even hinted at spring, but I suspect winter has a bit more in store for us. And thank heavens, as those colder temperatures make the winter greens sweeter than ever and give us a good excuse to buy all the ingredients needed for an evening of hot noodles! Not sure what to look for or what you're looking at? Never fear. Check out the first in a series about Japanese winter vegetables . They are my favorites, so I'm tying to spread the yummy word! Now, off to the market! Ebisu Market Sunday, February 2nd and Sunday, February 16th Ebisu will be in full form this month with its two usual markets. Don't miss the opportunity to head to a nifty part of the city where on these sweet Sundays yo

Thursday Snapshot: Ice Needles in the Garden

Ice needles in the garden. This time of year finds Jack Frost making nightly visits. Yet, the wonders he works at the farm are impressive indeed. We can't start work until about 9am because his frosty paint is still too fresh. Shortly after, though, we crunch our way out to harvest a few leaves from the greenhouse or under the row covers. And what we often see all around and underfoot are these lovely little ice needles or shimobashira in Japanese . As the ground freezes, the water is drawn up and out of the soil where it freezes in the colder air.

Elemental Thinking at the British Chamber of Commerce Journal

Candles at our local temple on New Year's Eve. Over the past year or so I've had the pleasure of writing articles on behalf of ecotwaza for Acumen , the journal for the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan. It's been great fun and it's given me a wonderful excuse to explore various topics in greater detail. My latest one for January, Elemental Thinking , is up now. Don't forget to visit ecotwaza, too !

Japanese Winter Greens: A Primer

Mizuna enjoying a bit of winter sun. Look for Japanese Winter Vegetables: A Primer, Part Two, here! People are often surprised to find out that the Tokyo farm where I help out is busy with winter vegetables. "But it's too cold," they say, and their surprise increases as I start to list the variety of things currently in the field: daikon, kabu, and all the leafy greens I have come to know and adore since arriving here five years ago. Many of these vegetables thrive in these conditions -  cold, frosty nights and bright, sunny days - and don't mind the long stints without rain so typical of this season. The cold weather, in fact, is beneficial. "Komatsuna is sweeter and darker after a frost," said C-chan the other morning as we worked preparing the days harvest for shipment. And indeed, the plants looked particularly vivid and delicious as they lay on the wooden table. Like kale and brussel sprouts, komatsuna produces more sugars during a frost in an

Tokyo Farmers Markets: Saturday, January 25th and Sunday, January 26th

A fantastical array of old-fashioned mirin at the December Earth Day Market. More delicious than I ever thought it could be! This final weekend of January offers a very nice selection of Tokyo markets for winter perusal. The Earth Day Market on Sunday will showcase Fairtrade chocolate for Valentine's Day, while Yurakacho recently featured some of the loveliest baked goods I've seen yet. Meanwhile, before heading for the dessert table, don't forget to gather up some winter greens, a few sweet potatoes, carrots, cabbage, and even brussell sprouts. (Yes, for those who are fans, they seem to be making inroads!) Exciting times, indeed! Earth Day Market Sunday, January 26th 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. **Don't miss the

Thursday Snapshot: Michigan Acorns

February acorns lying in wait. Usually we head home to America for the month of February. This year, though, due to our upcoming move and job changes we're planning to go back in August. Undoubtedly, we are looking forward to all the pleasures of a Midwest summer - swimming, picnics, biking, canoeing, bonfires on the hill, and thunderstorms - and slow sunsets that draw out the stars. However, we won't see so many of these lovely acorns on the edge of the back prairie grass field near our house in Michigan. By August a new crop will be in the works, the squirrels just beginning to think they'd better draw up that winter to-do list.

My Review of Edible Cities at Permaculture Magazine

Living and farming as I do in one of the world's largest cities, I am instantly drawn to books that discuss innovative ways to grow food in an urban environment. And now that I'm preparing to move to a place where my garden will be as much on my balcony as it will be in the backyard, I'm even more interested. So, it was with great pleasure that I found a review copy of Edible Cities: Urban Permaculture for Gardens, Yards, Balconies, Rooftops and Beyond by Judith Anger, Immo Fiebrig, and Martin Schynder waiting for me. What did I think? Well, read the review at Permaculture Magazine and find out!

Tokyo Farmers Markets: Saturday, January 18th and Sunday, January 19th

Seaweed ready and raring to go at the Nippori Farmers Market! Another beautiful winter weekend for food exploration in Tokyo! Wander out to one of these great markets to find hoshigaki , all the fixings for nabe, and a few other items you never dreamed of and probably never knew you needed. It will be pure pleasure with some good eats, too. Ebisu Market Sunday, January 19th After December's little break, Ebisu should be swinging again 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 Nippori Farmer's Market Saturday, January 18th and Sunday, January 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, particu

Thursday Snapshot: Harvested Bundles of Rice

Freshly harvested bundles of rice lying in wait in the field. As I mentioned yesterday, we took a trip this past fall to help One Life Japan harvest their rice. It was one of the coolest trips ever - excellent company, scrumptious food, and outstanding scenery - and I learned loads. In the article at Kansai Scene I mention that after we cut the stalks we laid them in bundles behind us with the stems crossed. Here's a photo of what that looked like before we started to bundle them for hanging.

Organic farming travel piece at Kansai Scene

Freshly harvested rice set to dry. Farming is one of the great pleasures in my life, and so it is no surprise that many of our vacations center around this favored activity. A trip this past fall to help harvest rice with One Life Japan proved great fun and perfect subject matter for this piece over at Kansai Scene . Enjoy!

Mottainai: Sakekasu in the Winter Kitchen

Sakekasu, purchased at our local sake shop, ready to go to work! Last year I discovered the culinary potential of sakekasu (sake lees). Left over at the end of the sake-making process, sakekasu is, literally, the dregs of the sake barrel. The rice by this time is turned to mush, the liquid resulting from the fermentation process drained off and poured into bottles ready to be drunk. What to do? Mottainai . Amazake, a sweet usually hot beverage, is perhaps the best known and most popular use of sakekasu. However, a bevy of other recipes and ideas exist for making the most of this winter delight. Grilled sakekasu My Japanese tutor is a creative cook, to say the least, and her favorite method is to shape the kasu into small patties and fry it up in a pan. "It tastes and feels like cheese," she said and suggested serving it on bread. It does indeed resemble cheese, and it matches well with a dab of yuzu marmalade , too. Another option is to toast it along with some bre

Tokyo Farmers Markets: Saturday, January 11th and Sunday, January 12th

Holiday fun at Nippori's Christmas Market! This weekend the farmers markets swing back into full schedule around Tokyo. Blustery sunshine makes a perfect environment for strolling about to find a pick of the season's best. Grab some daikon, potatoes, and even fresh udon for swirling about the evening nabe pot or some lovely bread to swipe up the remains. Oh, the possibilities are endless! Resolve to explore food this year and head on out! Market of the Sun Saturday, January 11th and Sunday, January 12th 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 UN University Market Every Saturday and Sunday  starting with Saturday, January 11th A massive weekend affair that is great fun and f

Thursday Snapshot: Snow

One of the many beautiful scenes around Sakae Mura in Nagano Prefecture. This holiday break we once again ventured up to Nagano Prefecture to visit friends and frolic in the snow. As our bus climbed over the mountains and snaked its way closer to Sakae Mura, we found plenty of snow-covered scenery to satisfy our taste for winter ...for now.

Kansai Organic Growers in Kansai Scene

Organic farmer Kitamura-san and the Murasaki Togarashi, a Nara heirloom variety. I had the great pleasure of profiling five organic and natural growers for the January, 2014 issue of Kansai Scene . The article gave me the perfect excuse to spend a day roaming about a natural and an organic farm in Nara Prefecture, plus a chance to talk with two new growers at Hello Organic Farm in Kyoto. Such great fun with fantastic people growing terrific food and caring for the earth. Read on and get to know them for yourself!

Hoshigaki: Winter's Sweet Treat

Homemade hoshigaki (dried persimmon)  Hoshigaki (dried persimmons) bring a sweet edge to the cold of winter in Japan. Harvested in late fall and left to dry in sun and wind, the small orange orbs can be seen hanging under eaves in the countryside as well as in the city. Made from the tannic variety of persimmon, a fruit that if attempted raw will cause the mouth to irresistibly pucker in disbelief from a near painful bitterness, these not always so attractive fruit are an utter delight. Like so many things, the process itself is simple but the time required ample. Hoshigaki want nearly three weeks to hang outside and need a bit of special care in the meantime. After about a week, once the outer surface has hardened some, a gentle daily massage helps keep the inside soft as caramel. (If this step is occasionally forgotten, a good dip in hot water should loosen them right up.) If it rains, the strings should be brought in and hung in an out of the way place until the shower passe

January Farmers Markets in Tokyo

Miwako Houjo of Present from the Goat and her magnificent bread at the Earth Day Market. Welcome to a brand new year of Tokyo farmers markets! Exciting times, indeed, for wandering about the markets in the city to see what the first harvests of the year bring to the table. Komatsuna will abound as will other greens like karashina, cabbage, haksai (chinese cabbage), horenso (spinach) and satosai (a lettuce-like relative of bak choi). Broccoli may be making an appearance, only sweeter for the frosty mornings it has endured. Daikon and kabu should be present in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. Don't be shy. There are pickles to be made! Ebisu Market Sunday, January 19th After December's little break, Ebisu should be swinging again 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-base

Thursday Snapshot: Tea Blossoms

We gathered up these tea blossoms during a late fall visit to Hamma Farm in Nara Prefecture. Once harvested the Hamma's dry them and ship them off to a little cafe where they get served in steaming cups of tea.

Happy New Year!

This cheerful little face greeted us on a recent walk along an Ebisu backstreet. Seemed the perfect way to greet a brand new year and all the glorious potential it holds: fragile, cute, creative, and eco-friendly.