Monday, October 17, 2016

Weed Killing Without Chemicals

This swallowtail caterpillar is motivation to find chemical-free weeding methods.

I have mixed feelings about weeds and tend to use them as mulch or compost in the garden. However, there are plenty of other ways to deal with them, too.

Attainable Sustainable makes a number of great suggestions including mowing, smothering, making good use of chickens, and eating them (the weeds, not the chickens, necessarily) among others. You can read the full post here and my thoughts on purslane, the edible weed, here.

Joan Bailey writes about food, farming, and farmers markets with a little bit of travel thrown in for good measure. Get in touch to learn more about food in Japan or read some of her other work here.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Finding Heirloom Seeds in Japan

Drying pods of heirloom Hutterite Soup Beans.

Since moving to Japan eight years ago, one of my greatest challenges as a farmer-gardener has been to find heirloom or open-pollinated seeds. The majority of seeds available are not GMO (genetically modified organisms) as Japan, at this point, doesn't accept this material. Most seeds, though, are nearly all F1 varieties.

Heirloom and F1 Varieties
In plant breeding, F1 is the name given to the first generation of a cross between two true breeding parents. For example, if I decide to cross an Amish Paste Tomato with another heirloom variety tomato such as Emmy, in hopes of getting a gold paste tomato, the resulting generation of fruit is F1.

In order to get that tomato of my culinary dreams, I'll need to choose members of that first generation that are headed in a direction I like - early ripening, medium-sized fruit, good taste - and save their seeds. I'll plant them and repeat the process again and again over time until I get the one I want. (I will, of course, be eating my mistakes as I go, which isn't all bad.) The result is a vegetable that I like, that is tailored to my soil and climate, and that I can share with neighbors, friends, and even total strangers who also daydream about a golden paste tomato.

Today, though, F1 often stands for plants that are not the first generation of a cross between two true breeding parents, but rather somewhere further down the line from that original pair. Seeds saved from these F1 hybrids will not grow true. (Seed can be saved and eaten, but it just won't be the same as that first one. Patient gardeners can hack their way through the hybridization process to get something they might want. Those who want to try their hand at that should check out Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties by Carol Deppe.)

Open-pollinated or heirloom varieties, though, do grow true. If you plant, for example, an Amish Paste tomato, save the seeds, and plant them the next season, an Amish Paste tomato will grow. These varieties have survived and been passed down from generation to generation, literally from hand to hand, because they are reliable, taste good, store well, and are integral to local foodways.

Japanese Heirloom Seeds
Japanese heirloom seeds can be found in Japan through two main organizations. Tane no Mori specializes in organic seeds of traditional Japanese vegetables, but also European and American ones. This seed company is popular with a number of organic growers and producers. They also run a number of events and a monthly market near their home base in Saitama Prefecture.

The largest selection, though, is available from Noguchi Seeds. Also headquartered in Saitama Prefecture, Noguchi Seeds offers the widest selection of traditional varieties I have found yet. Many are Edo yasai (Edo vegetables) that were once common and even famous, but are now not well-known at all.

Other sources I use are asaichi (literally translated as morning market, these are traditional farmers markets) and western-style markets, michi-no-eki (roadside stands) and chokubaijo (vegetable stands). Many of the growers selling at these places continue to save their own seed and grow it. It's worth asking!

Joan Bailey writes about food, farming, and farmers markets with a little bit of travel thrown in for good measure. Get in touch to learn more about food in Japan or read some of her other work here.

Friday, October 7, 2016

October Farmers Markets in Tokyo and Yokohama

Best baked goods ever on a bicycle!
Kichijoji Harmonica Yokocho Asaichi
As temperatures drop and winter vegetables begin to appear, go on out and welcome the sunshine at one of these great markets. The rice harvest should be rolling in, literally, by the bagful so scoop up a kilo or two along with sweet potatoes for a great traditional autumn dish. Or just admire the many squash and the early daikon that will surely spice up any meal!

Saturday, October 8th and Sunday, October 9th
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 to 4pm
No map, but step out of Kachidoke Station at Exits A4a or A4b

Kichijoji Harmonica Yokocho Asaichi
Sunday, October 16th
Early birds on Tokyo's west side should count themselves lucky to find this little market in the warren of shops just north of the station. While fruits and veg are a bit lacking, the market is big on craftsmen and women doing interesting work, excellent baked goods, miso, rice, and other tasty treats. It's also worth noting that a number of places offer breakfast deals in the market!
7am - 10am

Saturday, October 15th
A 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

Saturday, October 15th and Sunday, October 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

Saturday, October 15th and Sunday, October 16th
A brand new market opening this month in Yokohama that looks quite promising. Their Facebook page says the Market of the Sun folks decided to start it up, and it's definitely good. Read my review over in Outdoor Japan's Traveler Magazine!
10am to 4pm
Bashamichi Station, Exit 2

Sunday, October 16th
This little gem of a community shindig is one of the best things going outside of the Earth Day Market, and I don't say that lightly. A nice little community affair started a handful of years ago, it blossomed into a full-on monthly festival that just happens to feature Shonan area produce in its fresh, seasonal form as well as pickled, dried, and prepared-hot-in-a-bowl. In summer it turns into a night market, but in fall it will swing back to regular daylight hours. More than worth the trek down to see what's going on!
**5pm to 8pm
Oiso Port Building
Saturday, October 22nd
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. Come find some good food and fun and enjoy!
10am to 4pm, Rain or shine!

Every day
A small local affair featuring Kamakura heirloom fruits and vegetables raised in yet another former capital city, the Kamakura Market is a small but wonderful venue. Head in early to get the best selection and pick up a loaf of Paradise Alley's charcoal infused bread while you're there.
7am until sold out

Every Sunday
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

Every Friday
A charming little weekly market tucked conveniently just outside the turnstile at Futamatagawa Station in Yokohama where a nice selection of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables await. Joining them are baked goods, rice, miso, and all the other fixings one might need for the week or just a good snack. Plenty of Kanagawa goodies, too, so be sure to ask!
10am to 6pm
Look for the tables when you step out the gate!

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.)

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!