Monday, June 30, 2014

Chokubaijo's in Metropolis Magazine

A chokubaijo just outside Higashikawa, Hokkaido.
(I know, I'm cheating a little, but it's a nice picture.)
Looking for vegetables but not able to wander off to a farmers market? Or just looking to do a little exploring in your neighborhood? Well, check out my latest piece at Metroplis on chokubaijo's (direct sale stands) in the Tokyo area and go get your veg on! Or jam or pickles or fruit, as the case may be. Be prepared to fill up a backpack or bicycle basket, too!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Tokyo and Kanagawa Farmers Markets: Saturday, June 28th and Sunday, June 29th

Ichizaki-san at the Futamatagawa Farmers Market in Yokohama.
Try the cabbage!
The weekend forecast promises rain mixed with sun, which is excellent for farms and gardens but not absolutely ideal for farmers market shopping. Don't be deterred, though, as summer fruits such as sumomo (plums) and a few kiwis even are starting to appear along with the usual crowd of summer vegetables. Zucchini (also available at your local chokubaijo!) should be in abundance now, and don't hesitate. These long, lush lovelies are short-lived in Tokyo's hot humidity, although northern growers will have a longer season. (A batch of our favorite zucchini pickles is underway even as I type!)

Futamatagawa Farmers Market
Friday, June 27th
This little market is one of my newest discoveries as I start roaming about Kanagawa Prefecture in search of markets. Two stops away from Yokohama Station, Futamagawa is an out-of-the-way destination that offers an astounding array of seasonal fruit and vegetables along with a nice selection of baked goods, pickles, and staples. Worth a wander over.
10am to 6pm
Futamatagawa Station - just outside the ticket gates

Sunday, June 29th
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!

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!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Ume Hachimitsu: The recipe and a few suggested variations

Ume soaking in preparation for hachimitsu-ing.
Ume (Japanese plum) season is winding down as rainy season comes to a close. Starting out green and hard, most shoppers will now find these little round fruits a bit yellow and, on occasion, with a red blush. And while there is plenty of umeshu tucked away in our closets (along with two new variations: rhubarb natsu mikan and ume amanatsu mikan), there was a distinct shortage of ume hachimitsu. A sweet and sour beverage made from honey and vinegar, ume hachimitsu is the best drink on a hot summer day.

Unlike its delicious counterpart, umeshu, ume hachimitsu is alcohol-free so kids can drink it. I used to pour a few tablespoons in a bottle, top it off with water, and pop it in the freezer before going to the bed. The next morning I grabbed it as I headed out to the farm to harvest tomatoes in the greenhouse or trim the eggplants. It cooled and refreshed as well as rehydrated.

 As my husband likes to say, “Move over, lemonade. There’s a new game in town.” 

Ume Hachimitsu 

Ingredients 
1 kilogram ume (Japanese plums)
1 kilogram hachimitsu (honey)
1.8 liters of vinegar

Equipment 
Big glass jar with lid

Soak the plums for a few hours to let any bugs wander out and make it easy to remove any stem bits. Drain, remove the stem bits, and plop in the ume. Pour in the vinegar. Pour in the honey. Put on the lid, label the jar, and set it in a cool, dark place for about a month. Serve with sparkling or regular water. Enjoy!

Caveats and alternative ingredients 
If ume are not readily available, don’t be shy to use something else. Really, I think any fruit would be wonderful, but you might have to play with the ratios a bit to get the desired flavor. Doesn't seem like such a bad job, does it?

I would recommend trying it with the following:
 - rhubarb (I just made an experimental batch of this, and will keep folks posted.)
 - regular plums
 - apples, preferably sour
 - lemons
 - red raspberries

I use rice vinegar because that's what I have in the shops. Standard white vinegar or cider vinegar would work very well, too. I might lean more toward cider vinegar for its softer flavor, but again, experiment away!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Tokyo Farmers Markets: Saturday, June 21st and Sunday, June 22nd

Shirakawago organic farmers at the Nagoya Organic Market.
Don't miss their awesome Swiss Chard!
Ume seem to be everywhere these days. Every little shop I go into these days has a basket of them (or six!) lying in wait. None, of course, are for sale. When I ask I find out they'll be made into umeboshi or such like by the shop owners. Don't be shy, though, to ask. There are recipes and techniques galore to be found out there by people happy to share. Summer crops such as green beans and tomatoes should also be appearing, while there will be no shortage of potatoes and onions. Carrots, too, will be in abundance, although they will start to wind down soon. Stock up while you can!

Koenji Farmer's Market
Saturday, June 21st
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, June 21st and Sunday, June 22nd
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

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!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Futamatagawa Farmers Market in Yokohohama

Nifty little sign for the Futamatagawa Market in Yokohama.

Recent visits to the Nagoya Organic Farmers Market and the Tokaidaigakumae Organic Market, it seemed logical add one more to my list for the month. Friday dawned bright and sunny after nearly a week of rain, so with hat on my head I ventured down the bamboo-covered slopes to catch a train.

Futamatagawa may seem like an odd place for a market. Despite being only two stops before Yokohama Station, it is not exactly a vibrant hub of entertainment; however it is home to the prefectural motor vehicles office and a rather large JA outpost. but even before I stepped through the ticket gates it was clear the location worked very well. Vendors still finishing their set-up were already being accosted by customers, a healthy mix of seniors and the more youthful set running errands or taking care of that pesky drivers license. Other growers and producers a little bit further behind schedule continued laying things out as potential customers circled, waiting to pounce.

Yummy veg at the Futamatagawa Market.
Nearly 30 vendors were on hand with an excellent selection of seasonal produce - carrots, red and white onions, gleaming white daikon, komatsuna, spinach, freshly harvested garlic, cabbage, and cucumbers - along with golden jars of honey, green tea, colorful salts from around the world, fresh and dried mushrooms, and a pretty array of colorful jams. Two bakeries vied for attention with their mouth-watering wares along with others selling manju, peanuts in the shell, and miso.

Like many other Marche Japon affairs, this one did have some items from outside Kanagawa Prefecture; however, at least two tables represented farmers here. (It is worth noting that both tables were staffed not with the growers themselves, but with representatives. This is not unusual for markets here, especially in larger cities, as the goal of these markets is to promote Japanese agricultural products and cottage industries.) I focused my purchasing attention on them and came home with two bags of ume for shu and a salad squash like the one I found last year in Kamakura from Takanashi Farm in Miura. I also loaded up on cabbage (I don’t believe in lettuce), and a tiny loaf of rye-apple bread (It sounded like yeastly genius) from Ichikizaki-san’s group of farmers and Harmony Campagne Bakery, respectively. It made for some heavy return travel, but good eats are ahead!

Futamatagawa Farmers Market 
Every Friday 10am - 6pm
Futamatagawa Station
Just outside the ticket gates and inside the station building

Friday, June 13, 2014

Tokyo Farmers Markets: Saturday, June 14th and Sunday, June 15th

Nagoya's organic market

The most happening farmers market weekend of the month promises to be bright and sunny with just a hint of the heat that summer brings. Don't miss the chance to head on out to gather up ume galore, red shiso, and a few last citrus. Biwa, too, should be high on the shopping list as this little lovely is as ephemeral as the lack of humidity just now. Grab a backpack and head on out!


Ebisu Market

Sunday, June 15th
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, June 14th and Sunday, June 15th
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!
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!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Organic Farmers Market at Tokaidaigakumae Station: Review

Junpei Yoshihara, Nobuhiro Chiba and son at Ginger and Pickles Organic Market.
Three narrow tables set on the sidewalk usually reserved for bicycle parking held an array of vegetables: bright green cabbage, red ruffly lettuce, bright orange carrots, and white garlic with just the slightest hint of dirt still on its roots and paper thin skin. Inside the cafe more tables held gleaming bottles of mikan juice, bags of dried beans, and peanuts in the shell. Ginger and Pickles mouthwateringly good baked goods on the counter were joined by golden brown loaves of bread, rolls, and other yeastly delights from The Pottager Bakery. The normally quiet vegan cafe, Ginger and PIckles, buzzed with visitors in various stages of eating, shopping, and talking.

“Okaerinasai, Joan-san,” called Junko, the owner, from the kitchen where spicy smells spilled out the doorway where I stood. Just back from a weekend trip to Nagoya to visit another organic farmers market, I’d come straight here from the station. This was, after all the first monthly organic farmers market event, and I wanted to show support. I also wanted to restock our vegetable drawer, which I knew to be dangerously low on salad fixings for the week, and meet a local organic farmer.

The excellent vegetable selection at Ginger and Pickles Organic Market.
Nobuhiro Chiba, the grower whose produce I openly admired as I stood outside near the table, greeted me. A Tokyo salaryman turned farmer, Chiba left his Ginza office behind in search of a more satisfactory life. “The salary was good,” he said as we talked, “but it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t happy.” Farming seemed like a good answer. “I can do what I want when I want,” he said, “and my son can grow up in a natural environment.” he said gesturing to a little boy darting in and out of the crowd. 

Chiba spent some time traveling to different farms around the country trying to get a feel for his new career, practicing the various growing techniques and the philosophies behind them as well as the business end of farming before setting out his own seeds. He and his wife spent two years studying in Kochi. One year focused on classes and another year on fieldwork on the farm of Kazuho Yamashita, one of their teachers, and a shining light in Japan’s organic farming movement. (Yamashita, author and farmer, represents organic growers often at the political level, speaking up for their interests and that of the soil.) It was there that Chiba and his wife grounded themselves in the knowledge they needed to move forward to fully organic farming: no chemical fertilizers or pesticides at all. They are also not JAS (Japan Agricultural Standard) certified. “Many farmers find that it’s too expensive and too much paperwork,” said Junpei Yoshihara, a representative of Yamayuri Coop where Chiba sells some of his produce, who carried on our conversation when Chiba darted off after his son.

Junko pausing in the Ginger and Pickles kitchen.
Yamayuri Coop is, according to Yoshihara, the smallest in Japan with just 2,000 members and roughly 100 growers and producers to supply them. Around for roughly 60 years, the coop is moving toward completely chemical free growers, something they feel is as important for their growers as it is for their members. “We tend to support small farmers,” said Yoshihara. “It’s important to have both, but most young farmers tend to start out small and chemical free. We want to help connect them with customers and create a viable business for themselves. We want them to succeed.”

Events like this one at Ginger and Pickles do just that. The local community learns about area organic growers, meets them, and of course, gets some information on becoming a member of the coop. Junko is a long-time member of the co-op and believes organic is the best way forward. The majority of her ingredients as well as the items she sells in the shop are organic or eco in some way. Starting the market seemed to her only logical, and Yoshihara agreed. “These young farmers need a community,”said Yoshihara. “This market is a new challenge,” he said with a smile.

Ginger and Pickles Organic Farmers Market
Schedule undecided, so watch here!
11am to 5pm
Tokaidaigakumae Station - Turn right out of the turnstile at the station. Turn left and go down the stairs (or the ramp) and go straight until you see Ginger and Pickles and the vegetables on your left.

Friday, June 6, 2014

June Farmers Markets in Tokyo

Lee of Lee's Bread in Chigasaki.
Find her and her most awesome bread at the Oiso Market.
(I'll tell about that later!)
The rainy season appears to have begun in earnest, and thankfully my first batch of umeshu is tucked away already. I'm hoping to whip up a couple more (gotta restock, you know!) and begin work on a new batch of umeboshi, too. Despite the rain, don't be shy to head on out. Growers and producers are still hard at work, and with all this rain their fields are gearing up to roll out some serious bounty. Don't miss your chance! 

Ebisu Market
Sunday, June 1st and Sunday, June 15th
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, June 14th and Sunday, June 15th
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, June 21st
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, June 21st and Sunday, June 22nd
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, June 29th
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!

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!