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Showing posts from December, 2015

Thursday Snapshot: Happy New Year!

The monkey, rightly so, looks rather excited. It is hard to believe that a new year is upon us, but it is. (I say this every year. I promise something new for next year!) It's been a good year of new projects, work on old and beloved projects, time well-spent with old friends, and rekindling relationships with distant family. I am grateful. Here's to a year of bountiful harvests, deepening friendships, discovery and the ever important, tasty food and new vegetables to try. See you at the market!

My essay, Ghosts in My Kitchen, at Metropolis Magazine

Bread and jam are a classic combination of flavor and memory. One of the unexpected pleasures of living outside of my home country is discovering the deeper meaning behind the food I make. I know that all food has a story and that many of the dishes we eat and their ingredients have tales to tell; however, I didn't realize how important those stories were to me personally until recently. My essay, Ghosts in My Kitchen, at Metropolis Magazine elaborates on that idea and the comfort it affords.

Tokyo and Yokohama Regional Farmers Markets: Saturday, December 26th and Sunday, December 27th

Kitanaka Marche in Yokohama is one of the best new finds of the year. A lovely weekend is upon us for farmers markets and preparations for the New Year. Santa has come and gone from our house, but he certainly enjoyed a tall, cool glass of umehachimitsu with his cookies and gingerbread. There will be plenty of good, seasonal vegetables to balance out all the treats yet to be consumed, so don't be shy to head on out to one of these great markets. What a better way to ring out the old year? Ebisu Market Every Sunday in December Ebisu Market management are going all-out this month and hosting a market every Sunday. They've been recruiting more staff and hunting up vendors, so head on out to be part of the action. A recent visit showed this always lovely market remains charming as ever with an excellent selection of seasonal fruits and vegetables, scrumptious looking snacks, and crafty items. I'd also  recommend a trip to Afuri Ramen  when you're done for some of

Thursday Snapshot: Fuji-san at Sunrise

Fuji-san at sunrise. One of the great pleasures of our current apartment is the wonderful view it affords of Fuji-san. Each morning we greet the mountain, and every evening we say good night. A large but reasonably quiet neighbor, Fuji-san is a pleasure to share the seasons with. For those who celebrate, Merry Christmas. For those who don't, Happy Holidays.

Satoimo Mothers: Planning for Spring

The ladies snuggled in for their long winters nap. The other day while down at the community garden one of my fellow gardeners stopped by. He's always there, and his garden is one that I admire the most. His plants are healthy and happy, and his soil is considerably higher than the surrounding gardens. "Well, I've been gardening here for more than twenty years," was all he said when I commented on it. That day, though, he had something else in mind. "Do you like satoimo?" he asked, and of course I said yes. This slimy potato, also known as taro, is a nice addition to our diet, and while I haven't always been a fan I appreciate its flavor and texture more now than ever. We walked over to his garden where I stood admiring his daikon and assorted winter greens while he gathered up a bag of the roots. "Would you like to grow it?" he asked, holding up an enormous satoimo for me to examine. Anywhere from two to four times the size of the reg

Tokyo and Yokohama Regional Farmers Markets: Saturday, December 19th and Sunday, December 20th

Do-re-mi Farms and their creative pickles at Kitanaka Marche in Yokohama. December's delights are plenty and varied, so don't be shy about heading out to one of these lovely markets. There is no more perfect gift than a brightly colored bundle of kabu or verdant komatsuna, in my opinion. And don't forget handmade mochi, pickles that will make you pucker, or honey as sweet as that loved one on the list. Also remember that pumpkin pie can be made from any squash found on a vendor's table! Koenji Farmer's Market Saturday, December 19th A new market I spotted while riding the train a few years ago on a Saturday morning into the city center is still going strong. 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 19th and Sunday, December 2oth Anothe

Thursday Snapshot: Cute Cat in Chichibu

A little aloof but still adorable near the banks of the Nagatoro River. I met this lovely fellow on a recent trip to Chichibu. His furry little self was a highlight, although I thought the same thing that morning while cruising down the Nagatoro in a traditional boat and then later that evening while viewing maple leaves. Call me fickle.

Habotan or Ornamental Kale: Not Just Another Pretty Face

Habotan (ornamental kale) getting ready for salad. A little while back a friend asked me if it was possible to eat habotan or ornamental kale. My response was an immediate yes, especially as we'd been adding those bright frilly leaves to our house salads since landing in Japan seven years ago. "My wife," he replied, "says they aren't. She says you shouldn't eat them." I sensed a bit of a spousal argument here that it might be best to steer clear of; however, I also wanted to know the answer. Had we been eating something technically inedible? Or were habotan off the menu simply because they were an ornamental plant? This time of year they appear in flower pots everywhere along with pansies and violas (two more edible ornamentals, by the way) signaling the winter growing season is upon us. I turned to one of the many reference books I keep on hand for these occasions. Joy Larkcom came to the rescue as usual and let me know in no uncertain terms t

Tokyo and Yokohama Regional Farmers Markets: Saturday, December 12th and Sunday, December 13th

Organic growers all the way from Ibaraki at the Earth Day Market. Since the Ebisu Market has decided to go weekly, the weekends are packed with marketly fun. Those seeking a bit of holiday fun and shopping opportunity along with their seasonal produce will find the Roppongi and Earth Day Markets plum full of festiveness. Surely, the others will be in on the fun, too, but those two have advertised specifically that they've got holiday treats in mind. The Earth Day Market is particularly wonderful with plenty of handmade crafts on treats in addition to the usual plenty. Have fun! Market of the Sun Saturday, December 12th and Sunday, December 13th The newest of Tokyo's farmers markets at two years old,  Market of the Sun  professes to be one of the largest, and this month looks to be all about the grape. 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

Thursday Snapshot: Maple Leaves Illuminated

Illuminated maple leaves in Chichibu. Recently, I visited Chichibu in Saitama Prefecture for the first time. The stunning scenery and delicious food took my breath away and already have me planning another trip to try the hiking trails, onsen, and camping spots. However, one particular treat was night viewing of momiji (maple leaves) . Maple leaves and early evening sky in Chichibu. The concept is simple: place lights under a maple tree, aim them up, and turn them on. I admit to thinking this was a bit silly and so had never before gone. My mistake. It was amazing.

Mottainai: Rice Straw as Mulch

Wara ready and waiting in the garden. When one of my fellow community garden members mentioned that a nearby rice farmer gave us wara (rice straw) for free, I jumped at the chance to get some. Farmers and gardeners alike have long said to me that wara makes good soil, and so I wasted no time in dashing over to get some. Traditional rice harvesting practices cut the plants at the base and then hang them to dry on bamboo racks in the fields. Growers like Kazuto Hamma believe that sun-drying intensifies flavor and nutrition while also taking advantage of a naturally available energy source, which is why he and his sister, Erina, sun dry everything from tea to beans to shiitake. Once the rice is dried it is threshed, and the straw is again gathered in bundles, tied, and either hung or stood in groups of four to dry. Modern harvesters are reminiscent of a lawnmower in that finely chopped straw is spewed out behind and left on the field where it will be tilled in in preparation for

December Tokyo and Yokohama Regional Farmers Markets

Squash party at the Earth Day Farmers Market! December is upon us and Santa Claus surely must be eating plenty of good seasonal fare to gear up for his long ride later this month. You can find much of the same at these lovely markets in Tokyo and Yokohama. Each one will have it's own holiday theme, and is the perfect place to stock up on treats for guests or for gifts. Need a recommendation? Just drop me a note, and I'll give you some ideas! Ebisu Market Every Sunday in December Ebisu Market management are going all-out this month and hosting a market every Sunday. They've been recruiting more staff and hunting up vendors, so head on out to be part of the action. A recent visit showed this always lovely market remains charming as ever with an excellent selection of seasonal fruits and vegetables, scrumptious looking snacks, and crafty items. I'd also  recommend a trip to Afuri Ramen  when you're done for some of the best yuzu tsukemen in town. 11am to 5pm