|Wara ready and waiting in the garden.|
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 the next growing season.
|Wara laid snug around habotan (ornamental kale.)|
It also turns out that wara is jam-packed with silica, which helps plants develop strong stems and leaves as well as ward off disease and pests. As the wara breaks down (sheltering and feeding various beneficial creatures in, on, under, and around my garden in the meantime) and is ultimately buried in my no-till practices, that it gives up its silica meaning healthier plants and a better harvest.