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Showing posts from June, 2015

Kappa: A Little Zip in Your Summer Step via the Cucumber

Kappa from above. Cucumbers (kyuuri) are just coming into season. Most gardeners and farmers train them along on trellises to make harvesting easy and a wee bit shady. It also saves arms and legs from the sharp-edged leaves that I recall drew painful red lines on me as I hunted for ripe ones in my Michigan gardens . Invariably, I would miss one only to discover something more akin to an oversized zucchini lolling about in the patch later. Decadence in dark green, I always thought as I chucked it to the chickens or into the compost bin, which was essentially the same thing. Cucumbers are here, as they are elsewhere in the world, a summer delight. They crunch their way into salads, get slathered with spicy oil and munched with beer , dipped in miso , or turned into a quick pickle perfect any time. Refreshing, cool, delicious. But the one thing I never imagined they would do, they have done. They have gone out on the town and reappeared swimming in a tall clear glass of vodka. S

Tokyo and Yokohama Regional Farmers Markets: Saturday, June 27th and Sunday, June 28th

Snapped at the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne in February, 2015. Rain, shmain. Grab an umbrella and head on out to one of these lovely markets. Certainly, the Earth Day Market will delight and tempt with its usual variety of goodies, and the Ebisu Market is no slouch, either. Now is the time to grab the last of the ume for whipping into umeboshi (my own two jars are stewing away as I type) or for any of the other fruity delights to be had. Early bird planters, too, will be sporting ingen (green beans) and tomatoes , too, may make their presence known. Don't be shy and take a backpack. See you at the market! Ebisu Market Saturday, June 27th and Sunday, June 28th That's right - four days of marketing bliss at Ebisu 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 wil

Thursday Snapshot: Ichijiku (Fig) Season Aproacheth

Ichijiku (figs) are a fruit I have never seen fresh until now. Here in Japan, though, fig trees appear on field edges or in front yards seemingly on a whim. Related to the mulberry tree, popular with silk worms, the fig bears a similarly interestingly-shaped leaf and the fruit themselves seem to magically appear on the trunk. I am not a huge fan of the fresh fig, but dry them and I come running.

Reprise: Getting Started with Vermicomposting

This article first appeared over at ecowaza.com, a lovely little website where I wrote a regular column for a handful of years. It is the second part in a series on vermicomposting (composting with worms) covering how to get started and using the lovely materials provided.  - JB Photo courtesy of James Kemp. Budding vermicomposters can make their own bins or order a kit from a variety of sources. Kits usually include a container, worms, and plenty of instruction and support needed to get comfortable with your new little helpers. Bins can be made from plastic storage containers where holes have been drilled in the bottom or constructed from scrap wood for a custom-made fit and look. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination, the materials at hand, and the space available.  Do your research. James Kemp, importer of Australia's Can-O-Worms composter , says a little reading goes a long way when it comes to vermicomposting. They are, he says, living creatu

Tokyo and Yokohama Regional Farmers Markets: Saturday, June 20th and Sunday, June 21st

Bursting with color at the Portage Farmers Market. Portage, Wisconsin Rainy season is here in earnest, so if the sun shines it is best to leap out the door. And what better thing to do upon leaping than head to a farmers market? There is still time to get all the fixings needed for making delectable treats from ume , and the zucchini are still booming, too. Both of them will soon end their reign, so don't hold back on making the most of the delicious opportunities they present. See you at the market! Ebisu Market Sunday, June 21st That's right - four days of marketing bliss at Ebisu 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.) It's worth noting, too, that  Do One Good , an animal NPO will be on hand with some of the cutest dogs ever

My Essay at Elohi Gadugi Journal

A brilliant sunset over Silver Lake. Portage, Wisconsin I occasionally branch out from words on farming and gardening to write about my experience living abroad. Each year my husband and I journey home to the United States from our home in Japan. It is wonderful and arduous all at once. It is physically and emotionally exhausting, but I wouldn't trade the opportunity to meet family and friends face-to-face for anything in the world. You can read the essay here , and I hope you enjoy it.

Tokyo and Yokohama Regional Farmers Markets: Saturday, June 13th and Sunday, June 14th

A wonderful group of organic growers and producers from Taiwan at the Earth Day Farmers Market. Can't wait to visit their market! Summer is upon us and the tomatoes, cucumbers, and beans are here to prove it. Keep your eyes open for other summer favorites - potatoes , basil, and even a few last brave zucchini - to fill your menu for the week. Ume and a few other fruit should be drifting along, too, so don't miss the opportunity to make the most of them. Delicious treats abound! Market of the Sun Saturday, June 13th and Sunday, June 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 Kamakura Farmers

Thursday Snapshot: Tambo Art in Sammu, Chiba

A sunset photo of the newly planted field in Sammu, Chiba. Our good friends at Minowa Farm grow some of the loveliest rice in the area. They do it with ducks , as well, which means an extra treat for us come fall. For me, the meat is a taste of home and childhood as well as a means to support an eco-friendly means of weeding. What Tomohito and Nagisa Minowa also do is Tambo Art (rice field art). Various shades of rice - red, black, yellow, and white - are planted by hand in a particular design. Aomori Prefecture started it back in 1993, and since then it has spread. It's another great example of farmer creativity benefitting the community - more than 200,000 people visited the site in 2006 to see the design for themselves - and the local economy. The Minowas, though, put a slightly different twist on it. Last year, they partnered with farmers in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, to plant three fields in different designs. Soma, one of the cities hardest hit by the triple disaster

Reprise: Vermicomposting or One Option for Composting in the City

First of a two-part series that first appeared over at  Ecowaza.com , a sweet little online business with an eco-bent that I used to write for. They're taking a bit of a break at the moment, but are worth watching for and checking out when the time comes.  - JB Photo courtesy of James Kemp at Grege.com Compost is a gardener’s best friend. The dark loam made from decomposed kitchen waste fuels healthy soils, brings helpful microbes, bacteria, and insects to the garden along with plenty of nutrients that plants need. Yet, organic urban gardeners, especially those able to grow only in containers, can find compost a challenge. Often, there is no backyard where a compost bin can be tucked, just a balcony or tiny patio. What to do? Enter the worm. Most people only think of worms as the little wiggle on the end of a hook meant to invite fish for dinner. Yet, worms do a great deal of the heavy-lifting that keeps soil healthy and fertile. Gardeners who find these slimy squ

June Farmers Markets in Tokyo and Yokohama

A cheerful crowd along the Shimanami Kaido. Rain is falling as I type this, and the humidity is climbing. I fully suspect that tsuyu (rainy season) is nearly upon us. It is June, after all, and the ume (plums) are already looking rather chubby on the branches around here. I've certainly seen them in the stores and at some of the area markets. The peas have finished, and the onions are drying, too. These are busy times for growers, producers, and eaters alike. Get out there and grab what the season offers, but don't forget your umbrella! Ebisu Market Sunday, June 7th,  Sunday, June 21st, Saturday, June 27th and Sunday, June 28th That's right - four days of marketing bliss at Ebisu 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.) It's

Thursday Snapshot: Scarecrow on the Shimanami Kaido

Grouchy looking scarecrow along the Shimanami Kaido. We saw many things while biking the Shimanami Kaido, and not the least among them was a series of scarecrows on the edge of a field. Some were a bit scary, like this one, while others were rather cute and friendly. All were unforgettable.

Ume Recipe Compilation

Ume soaking in preparation for hachimitsu-ing. Ume (Japanese plums) are beginning to roll in, so it seemed appropriate to offer up a set of recipes to make use of these little gems. I've had the best time making each of these recipes, along with a variety of jams from the umeshu and umehachimitsu fruits . They taste just as lovely if eaten slightly chilled and whole, too. I'll leave that up to you and your tastebuds. None of this is that difficult, but it does require a bit of time and attention. If you have the remotest interest, I would say to go ahead and try your hand. It will be delicious fun. Umeshu Possible the easiest recipe of all of these, and one that quickly inspired another whole series of shus. These alcoholic beverages are simple and delicious. (Yes, we have a cupboard full of these lovely fat jars steeping away. Yes, it is called the Shu Closet.) The hardest part, as a friend here once quipped, is waiting until its ready. Six months is the shortest recomm