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Showing posts from June, 2018

Potato Harvest

Andes Red harvest underway. I still suffer from what I like to call seasonal jet lag. Potatoes are, to my Midwestern mind, an autumn vegetable grown primarily to be stored up for the winter months and turned into any number of delightful dishes. However, in my part of Japan, potatoes are a summer crop. They are planted in February (seriously) and grown until sometime around now. Harvest dates vary by variety, but basically all potatoes in this neck of the woods are out of the ground by now. Bergamot in bloom. It's still totally crazy to me, but somehow I struggle through and start making Maan's Potato Salad . Those pictured above are a variety called Andes Red. They have a lovely red skin and yellow flesh. Andes Red breaks down into a creamy soup, but it also holds it together nicely for a chunky potato salad, too. These were grown from purchased seed potatoes. Those I'd saved to grow on last year...didn't. I was disappointed, but I forged on to the loca

Tokyo and Yokohama Regional Farmers Markets: Saturday, June 30 and Sunday, July 1

Tasty craft beer options at Osonbashi Marche! Rainy season is still lingering, but even after the reprieve from showers this week, we are reminded that in its wake comes the heat and humidity of summer. I'm not so excited, but my garden appears to be enjoying itself immensely. Too much, actually, but more on that later. Fields, furrows and kitchens around the region are full to bursting with foodly goodness, so head on out to one of these great markets and see what you can find. Ingredients for cold soup or a heady summer cocktail, perhaps? The news, if not the weather alone is certainly motivation for the latter. See you at the market! Kamakura Farmers Market Every day This market is an absolute treasure of a small local affair featuring Kamakura heirloom fruits and vegetables raised in or nearby another one of Japan's former capitals. Head in early to get the best selection and pick up a loaf of Paradise Alley's charcoal-infused bread while you're there. T

Thursday Snapshot: Sunset Over Koboyama

Sunset over Koboyama by R. Bailey When a break in the rainy season comes, it is received with gratitude and enthusiasm. On the evening of this spectacular sunset, we were not the only ones rushing outside to try and capture some of the grandeur above us. We stood with friends and watched the colors turn and mix overhead as shadows lengthened and the Tanzawa gradually faded away. It was the perfect pre-dinner show.

A Visit to Wasabi Chaen, a Local Tea and Wasabi Farm

Wasabiya Chaen's sign at the end of the driveway. The rain was just starting to come down as our group set out for a little wasabi and tea farm in the mountains near Hadano. After living in Japan for a little more than nine years and as someone who writes about food and farming, I've been to more than a few farms. I'd harvested tea in Saitama and Nara , but I'd never yet laid eyes on a patch of wasabi. Rain or no rain, I wasn't going to miss this chance. "We're going to be in the clouds today," one member of the group commented as we drove. Ahead of us, our side of the Tanzawa range sat blue-green and heavy with clouds. Rain drops scoured the windshield as we wound our way slowly out of the city for the farm. Started by the Yamaguchi family roughly 100 years earlier, the farm is only 20 minutes away from Hadano, but as the road narrows to follow a tumbling mountain river lined with ancient cherry trees, every vestige of the city is soon left

Sunday Reading

Poppies by Caroline. The rain continues to pour down, so in between attempts to get to the garden, foraging walks for foraging for yamamomo (Chinese bayberry),  and writing, I've been doing some reading. Here are a few that particularly caught my fancy. Suicide, Alcoholism and Anthony Bourdain Can We Talk About Alcoholism and Anthony Bourdain? at the Chicago Tribune is a piece I've been waiting for since news of his tragic and untimely death appeared. He was hard for me to watch as I saw a person who was working hard to present himself as the most gregarious, most interesting, most outlandish when really there was a deep sadness about him. This piece clarified that for me in a way, especially as alcoholism and addiction is something that my family knows far too well. (Thanks to April Leaf for pointing this one out.) Harvesting and Life Tasting The Sweetness Of A Norwegian Summer at The New York Times is an old piece I stumbled across in the leftover paper of our

Tokyo and Yokohama Regional Farmers Markets: Saturday, June 23 and Sunday, June 24

Satoh Nouenat Osonbashi Marche with their lovely peaches! Things slow down this time of the month in terms of markets, but don't let that stop you from heading out to one of these great foodly shindigs to see what is seasonally shaking. Lots of summer vegetables are pouring in, and as the rain keeps falling and temperatures rising, harvests will continue to increase. So, don't hold back on things like basil, tomatoes, cucumbers, and anything else you see at those delightful stalls. Pickles are always a good choice, if you ask me! Kamome Marche Saturday, June 23 Set on the upper level of the Yokohama Bay Quarter, this little market offers nice variety given its size. Vendors from Yamanashi, Yokohama, and other parts of Kanagawa brave the steady ocean breeze and offer everything up from fruit to wine to fresh vegetables. 11am - 5pm Map Kamakura Farmers Market Every day This market is an absolute treasure of a small local affair featuring Kamakura heirloom fruits

Thursday Snapshot: Baby Gingko Trees

Baby gingko trees enjoying the rainy season.  Out once again for a walk on a rainy afternoon, I noticed some seedlings pooled around the base of a zelkova tree. A closer look showed me that they were the youthful offspring of a nearby ichou (gingko) tree. The nuts, ginnan , fall in a smelly mess each autumn and are often harvested by locals as a seasonal treat. These little seedlings represent, of course, those that got left behind.

Yamamomo Foraging

Yamamomo berries Foraging is something that I occasionally do in Japan, and yamamomo are one of the best reasons to brazenly defy norms. Chinese bayberry is an evergreen tree found in parks throughout our little region. The bright red fruit first caught my attention for its lovely color and the sparkle of its skin. Setting reason to the side, I tried a bite and found it to be tart and sweet all at once with something of a pine taste, too. I was hooked. A not very good photo of the tree, I'm afraid. Since then I have stood under many a tree in a public space and nibbled or waded into shrubbery at the base of these tall trees to get at a particularly delectable looking bunch. A friend gathers hers each year religiously and dries them for use later in desserts or as snacks. I often dream of making a jam or shu with them, but so far have left those ideas only as dreams as I stand under the tree.

Dokudami: A Useful and Pretty Little Weed

Dokudami with bergamot leaves in the garden. There are some plants that seem to simply appear no matter what a grower does. Sugina (horsetail) and dokudami (Lizard's Tail) are two that are incredibly persistent. They are some of the first plants to appear in soil that has been cleared of other vegetation or structures, and their extensive root systems let them rapidly spread. Many gardeners express extreme frustration at them, but I take a slightly different approach. I try to work with them. I often feel that if a plant feels that much need to be there, maybe I should make some room for it and see what's going on. Dokudami has a long and well-established relationship with humans in this region of the world. Part of the traditional medicine cabinet, dokudami leaves are often dried to make a tea that helps with digestion, constipation, and high blood pressure among others. It is also included on the Japanese Government's List of Approved Kampo (Chinese Medic

Sunday Reading

Ceramic teapot at Wasabichaya in Hadano. One benefit of the rainy season is that it becomes a little easier to sit down and do some reading. At least, that's what my office assistants keep telling me. It's always hard to choose, but here we are with another week of reading highlights. Japan Disaster-hit Fukushima Struggles to Secure Forest Industry Workers Efforts Slowly Bearing Fruit at The Japan Times  This is a great story, despite its awkward headline, of long-term recovery work beginning to pay off for that most lovely northern prefecture in exciting ways. In Search of Japanese Roots at Discover Magazine Jared Diamond's piece may be somewhat dated, but general principles are sound and offer a fascinating insight into the culture, place, and people of this country. Seeds Biology and Medicine at Discover Magazine Another Jared Diamond piece that still packs a punch after all these years, this one discusses how our ancestors came to set seeds in soil

Annual Events in Japan

Annual Events in Japan by Noriko Takano My post the other day on ajisai reminded me of two books I'd bought a handful of years ago. Annual Events in Japan: Spring and Summer , and Annual Events in Japan: Autumn and Winter by Noriko Takano are children's books that are charming and informative. We join the Rabbit Family as they make their way through the year and enjoy the traditions and practices of each season. Each month is introduced with the translation of its kanji name, i.e. September is Nagatsuki (Month of Long Nights) and short explanations of holidays, house cleaning activities, seasonal foods, and translations of other small details that for many long-term residents have been nagging questions we never quite get around to researching. While obviously aimed at children, the adults among us will also find the books a useful reference throughout the year. Enjoy!

Tokyo and Yokohama Regional Farmers Markets: Saturday, June 16 and Sunday, June 17

Kamakura Farmers Market growers and their tasty veg! Rainy season has arrived and even brought a typhoon along to join the fun. Growers and producers, however, are still hard at it in field, furrow and kitchen, so don't hesitate to head on out. This is, after all, the most farmers-markety weekend of the month, so it should be simple to find one near or relatively near and get some good grub. What better way to ward off the rainy season blues than a hearty soup or some wonderful pickles ! See you at the market! Kichijoji Harmonica Yokocho Asaichi Sunday, June 17 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 worth noting that a number of places offer breakfast deals in the market! Look for my review in

Thursday Snapshot: Ajisai and the Rainy Season

This  year's ajisai (hydrangea) bloom. June is rainy season, and it is also when ajisai (hydrangea) make themselves known. I cannot help but mention them each year at about this time. They are remarkable to me for a variety of reasons, not least because Japan is the place where I came to appreciate them. It was hiking in Hokkaido, deep in the heart of Daisetsuzan Koen , that I spotted my first wild hydrangea. Hiking down a steep valley to a wild onsen recommended by a friend, I paused to catch my breath. I looked up and saw among the various plants and flowers clinging to the rocky walls a lone hydrangea. It's blue purple blossom waved with the wind that moved down the valley with the stream we were following. It was one of the loveliest things I'd ever seen, so unlike the giant white basketball blooms I'd seen and disdained back home. Since then, I look for them and look forward to this native plant's show each year. And take my annual round of photos, mar

Women of a Certain Age: Review

Image courtesy of Freemantle Press I was recently offered the chance to review a book of essays written by women about the later years of life. Women of a Certain Age , (Freemantle Press, March 2018) proved a compelling read, not just because I'm a woman, but because it is a glimpse into the human experience that I think is rarely put in the spotlight. I am grateful the opportunity came my way. Read my whole review here and see the link there for how to find your own copy.

Kanagawa Garden Update: June

The garden from the west side. Now that our move is over and the kittens are, for the most part, settled in, I've been able to return some attention to my garden. It's a further walk now - about 30 minutes versus the previous 10 minutes - but I plan to keep it for the foreseeable future. I'm attached to my fellow gardeners, and I've put a great deal of effort into building up that soil. It isn't perfect, of course, a subject I'll write more about soon, but it is pretty wonderful. The North Bed - West to East As the temperatures and humidity rise, things get a bit wonky in the garden. Everything starts growing like crazy, and keeping up with that level of enthusiasm is challenging. My tomatoes have sent runner branches hither and yon, something I suspect is normal for heirloom tomatoes. This is perhaps the third or fourth year that I have grown them from seed, and I am suspicious that as an American tomato they may prefer not to be pruned. They seem very

Sprouting Daikon Top Means Edible Greens

The little sprouting daikon top: a portrait. I remember visiting my good friend Junko one day and noticing a shallow bowl filled with water and three kabu tops sitting there. The leaves of the kabu were still attached and a vibrant green. "They're easy to keep like this," she said and went on to explain that they would get new leaves, too.  It seemed like a great idea, but I didn't really think much about it for some time. We usually eat all of our vegetables - tops, leaves, etc. - so it wasn't until recently I remembered her idea and gave it a shot. The container with the tomatoes and the daikon in the back left corner. I'd bought a lovely red daikon at the UNU a.k.a. Aoyama Farmers Market from Mercato back in April. We'd eaten most of it, but the top still had a few tiny leaves. I found a shallow bowl and plopped it in. Soon, new leaves were sprouting. It wasn't too exciting, so I left it be. (That really means I simply forgot about

Sunday Reading

Stubbers "helping" me stay on task. The new office assistants are keeping me hopping, that's for sure. Last week must have been a fluke of peacefulness, because it's been a steady run of laundry, food, and play time all for them ever since. It's a miracle I got to read anything this week. Here's a few items I got to savor in between kitten attacks. Food and Farming What 'No Antibiotic' Claims Really Mean at Consumer Reports lays out in detail what that means in different contexts. The related links on food labeling are also worth sitting down with, too. Nature in Various Forms Hundreds of Shoes Form Memorial in Puerto Rico After Maria Death Toll Spikes at Huffington Post is a vivid portrayal of the grief and frustration these U.S. citizens continue to face nearly a year after the hurricane struck. Check out the good work being done by the Land+Heart Project in Puerto Rico to see one of way of how to help. Invasive Beetle Threatens J

Onion Harvest Drying

Onions drying on our veranda. The onion harvest is in from my Kanagawa garden . I planted about twenty-five red onions in December or January (I can't recall exactly, and my office assistants won't let me up.) in a bed layered with leaves and manure and then mulched with wara (rice straw) . The mulched onion bed in January. If you squint, you can see them... It didn't feel too promising, I must admit, in the early days as they battled the cold, dry winter, but they held on until the weather warmed. My brave little onions stretching for the sun. Then they sent up their strong green leaves and set my mouth to watering as I anticipated pickles, salads, and chutneys. Friends, of course, anticipated the same as well as one or two to call their very own. I harvested them a little late - Saturday, June 2 - but before the rainy season arrived in earnest. Now, they are lounging on our veranda in between showers and underneath the laundry.

Tokyo and Yokohama Regional Farmers Markets: Saturday, June 9 and Sunday, June 10

Meet up with this Kokubunji farmer at the Ark Hills Marche in Roppongi!  It's that time of year when it's best to travel with an umbrella! Rainy season is upon us, but that only means the markets will be even more bountiful from here on out. Seriously, what else is one to do with all that moisture and humidity? Head on out to see what great treats are there, and don't forget that blueberry season is just around the corner! Market of the Sun Saturday, June 9 and Sunday, June 10 One of Tokyo's newer markets,  Market of the Sun (a.k.a. Taiyo Marche) , professes to be one of the largest. A short walk from Tsukiji Market and its wonderful surrounds, this market is worth a visit for its lovely selection of foodly and crafty items that rivals the goodies found at the UNU Market. 10am to 4pm Step out of Kachidoke Station at Exits A4a or A4b and look for the tents. Kamakura Farmers Market Every day This market is an absolute treasure of a small local affai

Thursday Snapshot: Ripe Ume Everywhere

Ripe ume loitering on university grounds. 'Tis the season for ume, and these blushing beauties were found on the grounds of a university near my house. I'm tempted to go back and harvest a bunch and see how they might be for jam. It depends, though, on the dictates of my new office assistants , the weather, and my gumption. This list of ume recipes is calling, though...

Bamboo Carvings at Mishima Skywalk

Detail of Mount Fuji from the bamboo carving at Mishima Skywalk.   During our garden club outing, we visited the Mishima Skywalk. Finished just this past year, the Skywalk is essentially a giant bridge with views to Suruga Bay and Numazu one direction and Mount Fuji the other. It was fun, but what I was particularly intrigued by were the bamboo carvings set up at the far end. A not-terribly-attractive photo of the illuminated carving. A series of stacked bamboo logs had patterns cut into them to form pictures or just a pleasing effect reflective of the natural setting. One, depicted here, featured Mount Fuji, while the other had flowers and suns with lights strung inside. The logs were staggered, and once illuminated would form a unique sculpture.

Bamboo Fence for Erosion Protection

Erosion control and wind protection mini-fence. A recent trip to the former summer villa of the Japanese Imperial Family found me wandering the garden, and while there I stumbled on this nifty little erosion protection fence. The villa is quite close to the seashore in Izu, protected from ocean winds and weather by the surrounding pines. However, these little fences offered a little extra protection for the lower, perhaps more fragile flowering shrubs and plants that lined the walk. Fence close-up. These little fences are woven flat pieces of bamboo and occur in staggered waves. A not terribly attractive overhead view of the fences and edging. They must buffer the wind just enough so that the plants don't get utterly beat up, and the sandy soil stays in place. They are also quite attractive and made from materials found on site. I also liked the edging made from old ceramic roof tiles.

Seed Saving Workshop with Yamayuri Co-op

Hidehito Komaki talking about seed saving. This Sunday I attended a seed saving workshop with a group of friends. Sponsored in part by Yamayuri Co-op , the workshop was held at Hidehito Komaki's farm where he showed us how to save seeds from soramame (broad beans) and cabbage. Both, he told our group of about 70, were varieties he'd been saving seeds from for about ten years.  Komaki spoke of the relationship that develops over time between seeds, plants, soil, and people. The soramame grown from his saved seeds were larger and harder to pull out of the ground than those in an adjacent row grown from seed grown for the first time this year. Komaki believes that the plants learn their soil and their region, and that the farmer and those who eat vegetables from those locally grown seeds also become part of a unique system. It may sound a bit like hocuspocus or, as my husband likes to call it, "hippy crap", but Komaki certainly isn't the first or only to es

Sunday Reading

Frank and Stubbers supervising in the feline way. My new office assistants demand that I keep a more consistent production schedule. I write every day, but I don't necessarily produce work to share. Well, at least, it isn't ready to share immediately. They suggested I write about some of the things I'm reading recently, and I thought it was a good idea. They have also suggested that I write a post each day this month, something like a Blogathon that I've done in the past, but more personal. The three of us thought this was a good idea to help them better understand my work and to get to know each other better. (They, of course, are napping in my lap at the moment, but that's part of their job description.) Here's what I offer for some lovely Sunday Reading after the farmers markets , of course! Food and Farming Waste Land, Promised Land at Orion is a powerful story of urban farming, immigration and climate change. I saw so many similarities between

New Office Assistants

Left to right, Frank and Stubbers, the newest members of the Japan Farmers Markets Team. I usually save special photos for my Thursday Snapshot section, but this seemed a good opportunity to share some news. Please welcome Frank and Stubbers to the Japan Farmers Market crew. Only two months old, they keep on my toes and glued to my chair all at once. Cat gravity, as we call it here at JFMHQ, is strong with these two.