Friday, February 28, 2014

March Farmers Markets in Tokyo

Regional antics at the Yurakucho Farmers Market!
In like a lion or out like a lamb is the question everyone is pondering at the moment. February brought nearly unprecedented amounts of snow to the Kanto region, crushing greenhouses, felling orchards, and showing Japan how delicate a food system exists even here. With traffic brought to a literal standstill for four days while people tried to dig out as well as in, grocery store shelves went empty and deliveries couldn't be made. Thank heavens, then, for farmers and the farmers markets. While many growers couldn't make it in to the city, two weekends of heavy snow underscored how vital they are to our well-being. So if you like to eat, then get out there to show some support for those who get the food on your table.

Ebisu Market
Sunday, March 2nd and Sunday, March 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 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, March 8th and Sunday, March 9th
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, March 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, March 15th and Sunday, March 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

Sunday, March 30th
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. (December and January saw special events galore!) 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!

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

Currently on hold until about March 15th when repairs to the Karajan Square should be finished. Word has it there will be a market brouhaha to remember! Stay tuned for updates.

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!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Satoimo: One of Japan's Favorite Slimy Things


Satoimo in all their hairy glory.
This post first appeared in slightly different form on Garden to Table as part of the 2012 Blogathon. The website has since moved on to the ether, but the post is still a good one. After all, people here are still eating satoimo on a daily basis, and many others are just seeing these little potato-like objects for the first time. Enjoy!

Satoimo is one of Japan's odder vegetables. Under it's rough, slightly furry skin is white flesh that is a little bit slimy even raw, and with a gentle nutty flavor.* Baked, grilled, steamed with dashi, or deep-fried satoimo stands well on its own or paired up with other vegetables and meats in a wide variety of soups and stews. (The leaves are also edible.) Satoimo stores well, and like any root crop worth the effort, stocks are just running low on this household favorite as the farmers in my area of Tokyo get ready to put a new crop in the ground in May.

I cannot say I was a fan of this little potato when we first arrived five years ago, but after meeting it so many times in such a variety of places I now find myself craving it. Satoimo, aka the taro root, is mostly just a good starch that differs from jagaiimo (regular potatoes) in texture. It is found most often in miso or stews where it acts as a tasty, low-calorie filler. The Japanese like a good bit of neba neba (an onomatopoeia that stands for slick, slimy stringy texture that to most Westerners is a sign it's time to pop that item in the compost bin) in their food, which can be a texture obstacle for foreigners. A variety of mushrooms, seaweeds, yamaimo (mountain yam), and other vegetables are revered for their inherent sliminess or, as in the case of grated yamaimo (tororo), their ability to become even slimier with a bit of fussing. (My personal theory is that it helps with another cultural obsession: digestion. It smooths out the process, if you get my drift.)

Satoimo falls somewhere between the stringy slurpiness of tororo and okra. It's slimy, but not in a way that puts one in mind of slugs or a bad sinus infection. Added late to a dish or cooked by itself for a reasonable amount of time, the sliminess stays to a minimum. I add it to a favorite kale and sausage soup recipe instead of regular potatoes with good success. Regular potatoes are available here (there are some in the garden even now), but I seem to be developing a certain penchant for slimy foods these days. For example, natto (fermented soy beans with serious neba neba qualities and an odor reminiscent of Limburger left in the sun too long) is a staple item in our home for mixing with rice as a good source of protein. I've even come to like the taste and not mind the sticky, stringiness of it.

Satoimo in July in Tokyo.
Farmers tend to hill up satoimo like any potato planting, creating a long ridge that by season's end will have beautifully huge leaves on thick green stalks swaying above. (The leaves bear a strong resemblance to Elephant Ears Colocasia esculenta, a somewhat common houseplant, which are smaller and definitely not edible.) Hilling is helpful, as satoimo likes to keep its feet cool when grown on dry land. It can also be grown in wet conditions such as rice fields or swamps. Grown in Japan since the Joumon Period, roughly 14,000 B.C to 300 B.C., satoimo preceded rice as the staple crop of choice. A compost-rich soil kept evenly moist and well-mulched should see a harvest in about six months from the time of planting.

Kale, Sausage and Satoimo Soup
1 bunch of kale, any variety, chopped, stems included
½ cup lentils
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 onion, roughly chopped
½ tbsp. Olive oil
1 tbsp. dashi**
4 satoimo, peeled and cut into bite size pieces***
Sausage of choice, cut into bite size pieces (check label for amount)

Heat olive oil in sauce pan and toss in onion. Cook covered until the onions begin to get soft, then toss in garlic, lentils, sausage, and potatoes. Give them all a good stir until thoroughly mixed, and let cook for a bit until the sausage browns some. Throw in the kale and let cook covered for a bit until the greens begin to wilt. Then add enough water to cover the works and throw in the dashi for good flavor measure. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the potatoes are soft and the lentils at the ready. Serve it up!

*Nibble only cooked satoimo. The raw flesh is slightly toxic, but cooking removes it.
**Dashi is a common Japanese cooking ingredient made from bonito and konbu. It has been the saving grace of my soup-making as it adds a bit of salt and good flavoring.
***Japan tends to leave the pieces rather large – an inch of so in size – for easy grabbing with chopsticks. I do the same whether implementing a spoon or chopsticks for two reasons. I'm a little lazy, so the less chopping the better, and because I like a chunky soup.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Tokyo Farmers Markets: Saturday, February 22nd and Sunday, February 23rd

Taken during a warmer season at the Earth Day Market.
Hopes are high that snow won't fly this weekend, or at least not so much snow that the city essentially shuts down once again. There is perhaps some question as to whether or not growers from harder hit prefectures can unbury themselves and their produce to make it, but let's hope for the best. Better yet, head down to one of these markets and find out! Look for winter greens (read up on them in a two-part primer), fabulous root crops, sunny citrus, and other delectable treats. See you there!

Earth Day Market
Sunday, February 23rd
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. (December and January saw special events galore!) 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!

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

Temporarily closed down for repairs. The market will reopen in mid-March!

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, February 20, 2014

Thursday Snapshot: Matsushima Temple Figurines

Matsushima temple figurines for good luck in marriage.
We found these while on a tour of Matsushima in the fall of 2011. Famous for the series of small islands off-shore, the city was affected but not devastated by the March, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. (Some theories hold that the islands actually acted as a buffer when the tsunami rolled in.) Utterly charmed, we hope to return again.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Recommended Reading for the Japanese Vegetable Shopper

Looking for something?
As I sit down to type a blizzard swirls outside the window, the second in as many weeks for Tokyo, and I'm thinking about the greenhouses at the farm. (*We lost four small ones in total, which means some serious rebuilding this spring.) Yet, the vegetables inside are hearty ones that enjoy a good cold blast now and again. The snow and cold will certainly wither hakusai's (Chinese cabbage's) outer leaves and yellow the larger daikon leaves (both are planted outside), but those in the greenhouses will simply hunker down and wait for sunshine.

While we do the same, here's a bit of reading to pass the time. Or for planning that cold frame or hoop house planting even!

Oriental Vegetables: The Complete Guide for the Gardening Cook by Joy Larkcom. (Kodansha, 1991; Frances Lincoln Limited, 2007)
First published by Kodansha in 1991, this book has stayed in print for good reason: it is indispensable. Larkcom's explanations and descriptions of how to grow, what the vegetable in question looks like, and tips on preparing it are wonderful. The product of her own travels and research, Larkcom includes wonderful sketches of the assorted vegetables along with their various names in Latin, Chinese, Cantonese, Japanese, and English. (In hindsight, I wish I had taken it along to China to help identify things in the markets. Maybe next time.) Given as a gift about four years ago by good friends, I keep it on my desk as a handy reference. I have not read it cover to cover, but have dipped in so often in so many places that it almost feels like I have.

A Guide to Food Buying in Japan by Carolyn R. Krouse (Tuttle Publishing, 1986)
While the photos may feel slightly dated, Krouse's book is a classic that every foreigner living in Japan should have. Krouse includes very clear, short descriptions of fruits and vegetables as well as meats, tofus, fish products including some fish, baking products, and a few cleaning items. Also included, and what makes this book even more vital, is the Japanese word written out as one normally finds it whether Kanji, Hiragana, or Katakana. (A pronunciation guide is also included.) Small and relatively comprehensive, Krouse will get folks off to a good start.

Oishinbo ala Carte by Tetsuya Kariya (Viz Media, 2009; Shogakukan, 1983-2008)
This seven-part manga series is a wonderful way to explore Japanese food. I've only read the vegetable volume, while my husband read the one on sake. We both came away intrigued, a little more knowledgeable, and eager to learn more. A good result for any book, I think. I can't say I found the inter-character action that wonderful, I did enjoy the stories told about the assorted vegetables.

Just Hungry by Makiko Itoh
Just Hungry is another go-to resource for ideas, inspiration, and information. Itoh may live in Europe, but she is never far from her Japanese roots. For those living out of Japan hoping to find ingredients and recipes, she is fantastic. For those living in Japan looking for ingredients and recipes, she is also fantastic. She also includes plenty of Japanese along with clear explanations and instructions. During the March, 2011 earthquake, she was a voice of radiation reason. I will always be grateful to her for that. Buy her book. Read her blog.

Anything by Elizabeth Andoh.
I first found Elizabeth Andoh at the Manchester Public Library. I'd checked out nearly every book they had on Japan in preparation for our upcoming move. One of her cookbooks was among the stack I brought home. I couldn't take my eyes off the pages. Andoh came to Japan forty years ago and has made herself at home in the kitchen and the culture. Her culinary program started in 1972 and has been going gloriously ever since. I have yet to join in, but it is a dream of mine to cook with her. Sign up for her newsletter. Attend a class and see how food and culture deliciously combine.

There are loads more I could list here (Yukari Sakamoto comes to mind!), but I'm going to pause here with these. Got a favorite book, website, or person? Let me know and I'll add them to the list. The more the merrier!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Tokyo Farmers Markets: Saturday, February 15th and Sunday, February 16th

Am Fluss, a fantastic German-style bakery from Yokohama, at the UNU Market.
Whee!
What better way to treat your sweetheart than with a trip to one of these fantastic markets? Head on out together to buy all the ingredients needed for a romantic dinner for two, including the wine or beer! Not sure exactly what's on display? Check out both parts one and two of a Japanese winter greens primer (Yes, there are that many to choose from!) to make a fantastic salad or to add a dash of color to soup. And don't forget seasonal root crops, too! Know of a market not listed here? Let me know. I'm happy to add to the list. I'm also happy to learn about markets in other places, too, so don't be shy!

Ebisu Market
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 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, February 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, February 15th and Sunday, February 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

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

*On hold until the middle of March when repairs to the market space should be finished. Hold tight until then by trying out some of the other great markets in town!

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, February 13, 2014

Thursday Snapshot: Ume Ice Cream at Osaka Castle

Ume ice cream at Osaka-jo.
March, 2012
Ume (Japanese plum) blossom season is upon us. It might be a little early and ambitious, especially in light of the recent heavy snow here in Tokyo, but those little blossoms are a delight. This photo, taken at Osaka Castle two years ago, features the blossoms found in the ume orchard there along with a healthy serving of ume ice cream. Oh, yes. It was delicious.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Japanese Winter Root Crops, A Primer


Freshly harvested kabu waiting for dinner.
Inspired by the two part series on Japanese winter greens, I've decided to carry on and do a short piece on winter root crops. Certainly, there are more root crops around than those covered here, but I decided to stick with a seasonal focus. Since this is mainly what people will be seeing when they venture out to the markets this time of year, it seemed sensible to cover them now. Other root crops can also be found - satoimo (taro), satsumaimo (sweet potato), for example - but others are at their best or, at least, slightly different from their warmer weather versions.

The standard daikon in all its glory.
Daikon is, as I've mentioned before, just daikon. People sometimes want to translate it into radish, but the radish I think of first and foremost is small, red, and often spicy. Daikon is, in its most common form, none of these. Daikon is often large or relatively large, white, and not spicy. Some varieties do come with red, green, or purple skins with interior flesh ranging from snow white to a starburst of color inside. Long and tubby, short and slightly rotund, or long and thin, daikon is often a feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds.

Another spectacular daikon specimen.
I so want to make carrot daikon pickles with this.
Wouldn't that just be beautiful?!?
And while it is incredibly beautiful, daikon is also incredibly versatile. It can be served oroshi (grated) as a companion for tempura or  pickled in komenuka (rice bran) for a tangy side dish. Cut into long thing strips and dried it makes a very nice addition to soup or it can be pickled whole in sake kasu to then be eaten with rice. The greens are a wonderful treat, especially when thinning seedlings in a process called mabiki, in salad or soup. I've also made a Western-style pickle that is no slouch, either. It also makes a fine asazuke.

A Beauty Heart radish.
Joy Larkcom writes in Oriental Vegetables (Frances Lincoln, 2007) that daikon originated in China and arrived in Japan about a thousand years ago. The Japanese, for all intents and purposes, fell in love with this vegetable and went on to develop a series of distinct types suited to the particular climate and soil the farmer had. As a result, daikon is a staple of nearly every Japanese kitchen year round.

A farmer friend in Aizu Wakamatsu, Takako Kimura, tells me that her summer daikon are different than her winter daikon. In summer, the plants tend to grow faster and be spicier, while the winter varieties take their time, growing sweeter with each passing day. Regardless of the season, we crunch on them raw in our salads, softened in soup, or dipped in miso as a favorite party snack.

Hinonan kabu at the Earth Day Farmers Market.
Kabu are, like daikon, a world and a word unto themselves. While often dubbed a Japanese turnip, these little round lovelies are nothing like their Western counterparts. Kabu tend to be soft with a taste as sweet as butter. (See the very top photo to get an idea of what they look like.) They range in size from slightly larger than a ping-pong ball to larger than a baseball. Some traditional varieties get even larger - about the size of a basketball - although these are rare now. Lovely raw, in soup, or pickled, kabu is well worth experimenting with, including the greens. Our neighbor likes to saute them up for breakfast.

There are, of course, exceptions to the usual white varieties seen in stores. Kabu can also be red, the most famous of these that I've met so far being Hida Takayma's akakabu (red kabu), pink or some variation on these. They make an excellent pickle although I've eaten them raw in salad and not regretted a moment. Some varieties, like the Hinona kabu from Kansai, look more like a young daikon with their long thin roots.

Where the kabu exactly originated seems to be something of a mystery. Logic says that it evolved from an Indian ancestor that wandered around the globe over the course of the last millenia, adapting to climates and soils everywhere. European turnips turned rather stoic and tough in the face of winter, while the Japanese varieties clearly leaned toward the sweet and gentle. That's just my theory, though. Even within Japan a vast number of regional varieties exist, but they are not well-known. Don't be shy to ask after them when out and about or to outright purchase them. It's the buying and eating and storytelling of these vegetables that keeps them alive for future generations.

Next week: Recommended reading for the Japanese vegetable shopper


Friday, February 7, 2014

Tokyo Farmer's Markets: Saturday, February 8th and Sunday, February 9th

Chillin' (quite literally) with an organic farmer at the Ebisu Farmers Market.
A glorious weekend for markets awaits! The Roppongi Farmers Market is on hold until the middle of March for repairs to the venue, but take it as an opportunity to dip into others. Pick up some wonderful greens, noodles, daikon, and don't be shy to try interesting looking varieties of things you've already met. There are some seriously beautiful daikon to be had, along with citrus of all shapes and sizes. See you there!

Market of the Sun
Saturday, February 8th and Sunday, February 9th
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

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!
*Fun events this month with Gregory Gourdet, a Portland chef trying his hand at all things scrumptiously Japanese!
10am to 4pm

This market is on hold until March 15th due to repairs being made in Karajan Square. A bit sad-making, but thankfully, there are plenty of other great options to check out!

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, February 6, 2014

Thursday Snapshot: Crocheted Bicycle Seat Cover

Too pretty to pass up.
I spotted this handmade seat cover while running errands at one of our local stores. A brilliant idea beautifully executed. Certainly, it provided no cushioning and little protection from a dirty seat, but there is no denying it's quite attractive.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Japanese Winter Greens: A Primer, Part Two

Hakusai (chinese cabbage) waiting for a turn at the kimchi.
Look for Japanese Winter Vegetables: A Primer, Part One here!

In Tokyo, winter brings brilliant blue skies, blazing sunshine, and crystal clear views of Mount Fuji in the west. It also, thankfully, brings a wonderful array of winter vegetables - root and leaf crops - that make me believe it is the true season of bounty here. Yes, summer may have its tomatoes, beans, sweet corn, and eggplant, but they are nothing compared to the rich, mouth-watering ones of winter.

Last week I introduced a variety of greens - komatsuna, mizuna, wasabina, and karashina - and this week I plan to finish up the list. That said, I am sure there are more lurking out there along with delicious local varieties of these. Don't be shy to give a shout with any you know of! Don't be shy. One of the best ways to ensure that these vegetables have a future is to grow them, cook them, eat them, and share stories of how beloved they are with others. For the plants and for us, it's a win-win situation!

Chingensai (pak choi) ready for the salad bowl.
Chingensai (pak choi) is technically a Chinese green, but Japan does a nice job serving it up, too. Word has it that it arrived on these fair isles early in the 20th century after a series of nasty little wars. Given the long relationship between the two countries, I suspect chingensai has been here longer than that. Related to and sometimes called 'Chinese cabbage', this plant has a decidedly different look. Thick stems that crunch nicely in salads and keep their snappiness in soups and stir-fry's are topped with leaves to green it's difficult not to just outright bite them. At the end of the season I've blanched overgrown stalks the farmers can't sell, sealed them up in bags in the freezer, and had very nice soup and miso additions until the following season. Like it's tubbier cousin (see below), chingensai's flavor is pleasant without being at all strong.

Shungiku seedlings. For a better photo see this recipe.
Shungiku (edible chrysanthemum greens) possess a very distinct flavor that folks either love or hate. I love it, but then I'm a fool for green leafy things in general. I eat it raw in salad as well as blanched and tossed with sesame seeds, but most Japanese people would think I'm mad to eat it raw. (Too hard on the digestive system, they say.) It makes an excellent addition to soup or stir-fry, as most of these do, and is very easy to grow, which is why it has managed to make its way all the way here from its homeland in the Mediterranean. An excellent source of potassium, it should be mentioned that folks may want to try a little at first. It is a member of the chrysanthemum family, which is where pyrethrum, a natural insecticide, comes from. They are distinct branches of the same family, but if one is particularly sensitive it may be best to choose another delectable green at the farmers market.

Hakusai (Chinese cabbage) is the aforementioned tubby cousin of chingensai. Also known as Napa cabbage in the United States, hakusai is a light-hearted version of its squat, thick-leaved European cousin: cabbage. The lighter leaves make for wonderful kimchi, tasty nabe (Japanese winter hot pot), scrumptious quick pickles, and wonderful salads. As its English name says, hakusai comes originally from China and is one of that country's oldest vegetables. It's uncanny ability to store well throughout the winter made it a pantry staple that afforded plenty of vitamin C. Another easy to grow winter vegetable, hakusai, especially if well mulched, delights in cooler weather.

There are other greens out there - rukkora (arugula) and hourensou (spinach), for example - but my hunch is that folks can find and recognize those just fine. Although, some Japanese spinach varieties do have a lovely red base, which might throw shoppers off. (It is often served up with the greens in ohitashi for a lovely dash of color.) And then there is norabo, another distinct green with kale-like leaves that loves cold weather, and is often grown in the mountains west of here. More on that one later.

Where to Find Seeds
The best way, if possible, to learn about these greens is to grow them. Listed below are possible seed sources, although it is possible to simply wander over to a nursery and find a rack full of them. Meanwhile, here are a couple places to do some shopping just now if you like.

Tanenomori Seed Company is based here in Japan, and while their selection isn't vast it's quite solid. Greens start on page 7 of the catalog pdf. It is all in Japanese, but a little patience should get it sorted. Natural and organic farmers I know consistently recommend them, although seed-swapping is also a very common practice.

Johnny's is another US seed company specializing in organic seeds and organic farming supplies. They carry a nice and ever-expanding selection of Asian greens, catering especially to those interested in growing salad greens.

Kitazawa Seed Company is based in California, their seeds are of wonderful quality and come with good descriptions. Each year their collection seems to grow with added varieities of old favorites and new additions.

Seed Savers Exchange is based in Iowa, some of the flattest and most fertile land my fair United States has to offer, and is home to an excellent selection of heirloom seeds.

Next week: Japanese winter root crops!