Monday, December 13, 2021

Sourdough Starter and Nukadoko: Musings and Metaphors


A toasted slice of homemade sourdough bread with pickled Kanazawa carrot.
Photo of rectangular bread with green carrot and thick piece of butter on wood.

The nukadoko and my sourdough starter both spent the vacation tucked away in the refrigerator. I worried about them, but I also imagined them hibernating and dreaming of vegetables, loaves of bread. However, I also liked to think the two of them had plenty to discuss during their stay.

I wonder now, of course, if they did converse, would it be small talk like two strangers waiting at a bus stop or would it be like two big wedding parties in separate halls at the same hotel suddenly realizing how much they have in common? Each is, after all, made up of the wild yeasts that live in my house, my kitchen, and even on my hands. 

Kanazawa heirloom carrot and regular cucumber after vacation.
Photo of fat green carrot halves and cucumber halves on the brown lid.

Would some of the guests meet in the hallway, admiring outfits, wondering what the protocol is for such occasions? Or would they meet in the restroom, casting surreptitious glances at gowns and hairdos, while listening in on conversations, and trying to figure out if they are actually at the same wedding but just don't know each other? Would they notice their similarities, one whispering to another like my mother does at these events about how much that tall woman looks just like so-and-so or that surely that man in the brown jacket is related to so-and-so because of a memory called up by the shape of his smile. I nod at names of people I vaguely recall from stories told while looking at old family photos or from long ago reunions or afternoons around a farm kitchen table with coffee and homemade cookies. Is that what happened?

Nukadoko pot next to a container of sakekasu zuke.
(More on that later.)
Photo of brown ceramic container with matching lid next to plastic rectangular container.

My nukadoko and sourdough starter are related as they contain wild yeasts from the same general hometown: my kitchen. There is some of Elizabeth's nukadoko paste infused with mine, too, which surely means that the 'newcomers' would also have some great stories to tell as they bide their time in my refrigerator. Are her lactobacillus like the distant relatives or friends that everyone wonders about and gathers around when they finally have a chance to meet and ask if they are with the bride or groom, did they travel far, where are they staying. Generations in the making, the lactobacillus from her paste have been around longer than mine and come from so many places. What tales will they tell?

Sourdough starter snuggled next to the coffee maker. 
Photo of jar with cloth covering on metal counter next to coffee maker.

Both seemed happy enough to resume their positions in the kitchen, the starter next to the coffee maker and stove, the nukadoko on the shelf near the sink, and both have since offered up delectable items - breads and pancakes from the starter and an assortment of pickles from the nukadoko - for our meals and snacks. I wonder what they recall from their time in the refrigerator, if they send missives through the air now and again. 

Monday, December 6, 2021

Nukadoko Progress Report: A Refrigerator Stay

Ready to go into the refrigerator!
Beige nuka paste in a rectangular, plastic container.

We decided to take a trip. I'd been home to see my family, but Mr. JFM had not been anywhere. This, my friends, presented a problem. Mr. JFM is nothing if not social. A global pandemic that kept him indoors, away from people, and not talking very much when he was able to be out and about pushed him, perhaps, to his limit. Fully vaccinated, we donned our masks and headed to Kanazawa.

However, before we left, there were a few things to do, not least of which was decide what to do with the nukadoko. Because this trip would be considerably shorter than my autumn trip home, I opted for the refrigerator.

What I Did

Using my bare hands, of course, I transferred the paste to a freshly washed and dried plastic container. The paste felt pleasantly wet but not mud-pie-goopy, and I gently pressed on it to remove any air pockets. The pieces of konbu I'd recently added were still visible, but the togarashi (Japanese red peppers) were not. The garlic and ginger were still there looking, for the most part, like garlic and ginger. I popped the lid on and placed it on the middle shelf in the fridge and wished it well. 

I also took the opportunity to thoroughly wash and dry the nuka pot itself and set it upsidedown in its corner of the kitchen to wait. 

What I Should Have Also Done

A later conversation with Elizabeth highlighted a few things I should have also done before departure. 

  • Draining

Even though I had not done this so long ago, it would have been sensible to drain it before departure. Liquid can continue to build up even in a slowed-down state in the refrigerator, and as Elizabeth warned earlier, that's where bad things find an opportunity to grow.

  • Flattening

I also should have flattened the nuka paste more thoroughly. Even now, looking at the above photo, I realize I left it too rough. Those indentations would be great spots for liquid to pool or air to settle and unwanted elements to make themselves at home.

  • Layer of nuka powder

A layer of nuka powder on the top of the paste would have served to shut out air, according to Elizabeth, which would also be another layer of defense against bad things, i.e. bad bacteria, etc., finding their way into the paste. The fresh powder would also help absorb any additional liquid that might accumulate.

What I Did Upon Return

Emerged from the refrigerator and after a rest on the counter.
The texture appears a bit softer even in this photo.
Nuka paste in a plastic rectangular container.

After we got home and properly apologized to Frank and Stubbers for going away but before I unpacked, I took the nuka paste out of the refrigerator and set it on the kitchen counter to reacclimate. I did check it briefly to see if the refrigerator had gotten distracted from its duties and frozen it, which, thankfully, did not happen. Some liquid had accumulated on the top, which made me a bit nervous, but there were no nasty smells, odd growths, or creatures peering back up at me from the depths of the paste.

A sprinkling of fresh nuka powder on the bottom of the pot.
Brown ceramic pot with light brown nuka powder in bottom.

I let it rest there overnight and in the morning, I flipped over the nuka pot and added a somewhat thick layer of nuka powder to the bottom of the pot. I then somewhat gently plopped the paste back in and sprinkled it with more nuka powder and let it rest for a few hours again. 

A fresh layer of nuka powder on top of the paste after transferring it back to the pot.
Brown ceramic pot with nuka paste roughly mounded in bottom.

I gave it all a good mix and turn before letting it rest a few hours again. 

Freshly pickled cucumber halves with three persimmon seeds.

That evening, I popped a cucumber in to see where things stood. It came out reasonably well worked over, and a delightfully vivid green with a pleasantly tangy taste. We were back in the pickle business.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Nukadoko Progress Report: Draining Excess Liquid

The moisture in the nukadoko glistens off the paste.
Photo of nuka paste in brown pot.

Upon seeing the pH test results, Elizabeth encouraged me to go ahead and drain some of the liquid. This was a big moment, and I was super excited. She talked me through the process, and I took copious notes, and she also sent a series of photos of the draining process so I could have some visual support of this process, too. 

The sake cup I used to drain liquid from my nuka paste.
Photo of blue, black, and white cup held between thumb and forfinger.

I patted down the nuka paste so that it was flat in the nukadoko. I then inserted a small sake cup, pressing firmly as it went straight down to the bottom. I chose a wide, low cup that I thought would accommodate the depth of my paste at the time (about three inches or so). 

Sake cup immersed in nuka paste with sides sloped toward it.
Photo of black, blue, and white cup in nuka paste.

Per Elizabeth's advice, I then "banked" the sides around the cup, meaning I gently shaped them to slope down toward the cup. This would encourage excess liquid to drain into the sake cup rather than pooling about on the surface. Ideally, the cup should be about three inches below the surface, but in my case, the sloping surface ended at the lip of the cup. I had been cautious about adding fresh nuka powder, so the depth was a bit lower than might be ideal. I also wonder if this might account for the sourness, too, as there wasn't enough to keep the pot happy and busy. Something to ponder for later.

Elizabeth's nukadoko being drained.
Notice how deep the cup is in the paste and how the sides of the nuka are sloped toward it.
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Andoh
Photograph of white cup below surface of nuka paste.

Then, it was a question of waiting. Liquid, Elizabeth advised, could accumulate overnight, but she suggested giving it a full 24 hours. She said that she typically gets 150 - 200cc when she drains her pot, but in my case, we could have to see. 

A not very attractive photo of the drained liquid in a measuring cup.
Brown liquid in bottom of clear glass measuring cup with red painted measurements.

It was 10am on a cool, cloudy morning when I inserted the sake cup. When I returned the next morning around 8:30am, about an ounce (29cc) of dark brown fluid filled the cup. I gave it a good turn and flop and noticed the paste felt much drier, but I decided it was still a bit too wet. I resloped the sides and inserted the cup once more. The next morning, I had another ouce (29cc). The paste was drier still, but I inserted it once more to get any last excess fluid. There wasn't much in the sake cup the next morning, so I went ahead and gave it the usual flop and turn before inserting a salt-rubbed cucumber for a test run. To my delight, it came out pleasantly sour.

In hindsight, it would have been sensible to do another pH test before doing the cucumber to get an idea of what might have changed. Something to remember for the future.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Nukadoko Progress Report: pH Test Results

The garlic was blue, but the ginger looked like...ginger.
Thumb and finger holding a piece of blue garlic.

As advised, I tested the pH of my nukadoko. A garlic clove and a chunk of ginger went in, and persimmon peels were set to dry soon after. 

I checked the garlic and ginger chunks the next day, and there had not been much change. I did find a clove that had turned blue, but I am deeply suspicious it was one that had been loitering there for some time. The ginger, as Elizabeth wrote, looked like...ginger. This could mean the pH was off, which would account for the extreme sourness. Next steps were in order!

Meanwhile, I prepared a hearty skillet of The McFerrin in preparation!

Monday, November 29, 2021

Nukadoko Progress Report: Super Sour with Excess Liquid

Standing liquid in the nukadoko!
Photo of a finger pointing at liquid on surface of nuka paste in brown pot.

I was worried. I'd seen some liquid in my nukadoko, which I knew was normal based on my near constant perusal of the recipe in Kansha, but the pickles were coming out sour. I mean the kind of sour that makes you scrunch up your face and go "Whew!" 

I was worried that perhaps the pot had gone acidic or that some other issue might be at play. Live bacteria are very much like having a pet in the house. There is joy, delight, and wonder, but there is also a need to monitor behavior to understand its 'normal' state of health and well-being. 

Over time, liquid accumulates in the nukadoko as you pickle ingredients in it. Vegetables are salt-rubbed before pickling, which initiates the drawing out of fluid. More fluid is drawn out as the lactobacillus present in the nukadoko set to work transforming these vegetables into tangy treats. Eventually, the fluid builds up and can be seen as puddles on the surface of the nukadoko. 

Small puddles can be soaked up by dabbing the surface with paper towels, which I had been doing. However, the feel of the nukadoko paste was becoming more akin to the nearly viscous mud pies I made in summer as a child and the smell was very, very sour. For Elizabeth, the scent was the giveaway.

"With a nukadoko, the scent is the first thing I pay attention to," she said. "That tells me what's happening in the pot and how I might respond."

Sourness is a sign of an overly acid pot. Elizabeth mentioned that this can happen if the pot is not turned (meaning flipped and flopped by hand) enough during hot weather. This lack of turning can also cause it to go musty. The pot can also lean toward sour if there is not enough salt, but I knew that my pot sitter had recently amended it. We ruled that one out. "Puddle wet," Elizabeth continued, "means excess liquid that needs to be drained away."

My heart quickened with anticipation. For my nukadoko and me, draining excess liquid felt like a significant step forward in our maturing relationship.

"But first, you should gauge the level of pH in your pot," Elizabeth said. My heartbeat slowed as I nodded and jotted down her advice in my diary: throw in a whole clove of garlic and a piece of ginger. It was, she explained, an easy way to add flavor and see what was happening in the pot, something that is especially important as one season shifts to another. "If the garlic turns blue and the ginger pink, it indicates the pot is well balanced between acid and alkaline. If it is balanced, then add fresh nuka powder to absorb the extra moisture."

If it continues to smell very sour, she continued, then eggshells could be added. 

I looked up, my heartbeat quickening again. Eggshells? Oh, this could be exciting!

Eggshells, Elizabeth explained, are a traditional addition when the pot is overly sour. They add calcium to the medium, which naturally neutralizes the acidity while simultaneously adding nutrition. It is one reason they are part of the mix in the irinukamisokarashi added at the start. (Vegans will instead want to add extra nuka powder to balance the acidity.) All of these things work together to create a balanced pot environment where lactobacillus can thrive and pickle veg. 

"For any pot (vegan or not)," Elizabeth continued, "you should consider adding dried fruit peels as a natural way to refresh and, literally, sweeten the pot. In the autumn dried persimmon peels, and in the winter, dried mikan peels." The fibrous peels would also make good munching for the pickle pot's bacteria in addition to whatever veg is being pickled at the time.

As I listened and took notes, Elizabeth also reminded me that it was the generations of observant and clever pickle pot tenders who preceded us that figured all of this out. It certainly feels like an honor to be following in their footsteps as my pickle pot and I move our relationship forward. We'd come full circle - from too dry to too wet - and remained healthy. 

Monday, November 15, 2021

Nukadoko Progress Report: Green Eggplant Meets Pickle Pot

Green Eggplant Meet Pickle Pot.
Photo of green eggplant on wooden cutting board.

After The Return of the Pickle Pot, pickling resumed as usual. It was good to be home again, my hands at work in the kitchen and at my desk. There is nothing so refreshing and orienting for me as these kinds of tasks, and invariably they are what I gravitate to if I need to recenter or settle my mind. However, since I'd left nearly twenty days prior, something had changed: the weather.

Autumn was in the air. Temperatures were still rather warm (70° to 80° F/21° to 26° C), but they began dipping into the 50°F (10°C) range at night. Days were getting blessedly shorter. The Pickle Pot slowed down. A nearly 24-hour pickled cucumber came out greener, firmer, and crunchier than it did when Summer was a capital 'S' presence. (FYI, I still pickle the occasional cucumber so I can gauge how the pot changes.) Sweat still appeared on the inside of the lid, and I found some standing liquid now and again and simply blotted it up with a paper towel. 

"Eggplants make great nukazuke," said my landlord neighbor one day as he handed me two large green eggplants. I'd never seen this particular variety before, but its green variegations were stunning. "They are really good nukazuke," he repeated as I stood on the stoop admiring them. I took the hint.

I followed the directions for eggplant in Kansha (cut in half and salt rubbed) and plunged them in around midday at 63°F (17°C) with 79% humidity and overcast. I did not have any alum on hand, however, and no time to run to the store to look for it. Alum, a classic ingredient in homemade dill pickle recipes, combines with natural pectins to keep vegetables firm and maintain the crunch. I assumed I would just have a slightly soggier pickle, which was not a deal-breaker in my book.

That evening when I took the eggplant out, it didn't seem to have changed much. The flavor was tangy, but the texture was still relatively firm. I delivered half to the landlord, and we worked on the other half over the course of the next day. Like the carrot, I was not terribly impressed with the flavor. However, there might be a couple of reasons for this.

  • This variety of eggplant had particularly thick skin. While Japanese eggplants don't have paper-thin skin, it is easily pierced. It took some effort to break through the skin of these green ones. I suspect that the Pickle Pot struggled to get through that skin to work its magic.
  • The flavor of the pot was pretty sour. It had been sour when I left and before it went to stay with my friend; however, she had worked some Pickle Pot Magic that balanced out the flavors some. Now, though, it was getting tangier by the day. Perhaps something else was going on.

Friday, November 12, 2021

November Tokyo and Yokohama Farmers Regional Markets

Me staring in adoration at a display of local veg in Kanawa's Omicho Market.

November is a month of bright skies, vivid leaves, and cooler temperatures. As farmers markets open again, get out and enjoy the community, the fresh produce, and the fun. Do pay attention, though, to posted precautions, and take care of yourself and your loved ones by wearing your mask (nose and mouth, thanks!), washing your hands, and being aware of social distancing protocols. 

Market of the Sun

A lovely and absolutely hopping market in the heart of Tokyo. Held the second weekend of each month, the Market of the Sun offers a range of fresh and prepared foods from near and far(ish). Do check their Facebook page before heading out to make sure it is still on and plan to wear a mask over your nose and mouth while there. 

Saturday, November 13 and Sunday, November 14

10am - 4pm

Nearest Station: Kachidoki, Exit 4a, 4b

Shishimai Marche

A new-to-me market in Oiso, the Shishimai Marche is held in front of a ramen shop in Oiso that looks to be one of the loveliest homegrown efforts going on this stretch of the Shonan Coast. I've not been yet, but their Instagram is enticing, and word from two trusted sources is that it is worth the early morning bike ride. I'm hoping to make it this weekend and get back to you all with a full report!

Saturday, November 13

8am to 10:45am

Koenji Farmers Market

A cute local market set up in front of Zakoenji Theatre the third Saturday of each month featuring farmers, bakers, picklers, and a few other foodly creatives. Check out the website for details.

Saturday, November 20

11am - 5pm

Oiso Farmers Market

A charming and lively market at the Oiso Port featuring local growers, producers, and artisans. Even though case numbers are down to nearly non-existent, market organizers remain cautious. Nothing is scheduled yet for this month, but check their Facebook page for updates.

Yokohama Kitanaka Marche

A fantastic market in the city opening for the first time in a number of months. Be sure to check their Facebook page to see which vendors will be on hand on which days and head on down. Note they are in a new location, Kitanaka Brick and White. For access, see their website

Saturday, November 20 and Sunday, November 21

10am - 4pm

Nearest Station: Bashamichi, Exit 2a

Kichijoji Harmonica Yokocho Asaichi

This market remains closed. Check their Facebook page for updates. When it reopens, you'll find an early morning gem well worth the effort.

Kamakura Farmers Market

Established in 1933, the market features a different group of farmers each day. All grow Kamakura Brand vegetables, a brand established to delineate the uniqueness and terroir of Kamakura's produce. Check out their website, visit to discover which group(s) of farmers might be your favorite, then make it a regular journey. My advice? Other than getting vaccinated, wear your mask, bring your own shopping bag, and get ready for a feast!

Kamakura Renbai


8am until sold out

Ebisu/Yebisu Marche

Open every Sunday, the market is a charming cluster of growers, producers, and artisans gathered in the square just across from Ebisu Station. Be sure to look for Brod, a new Nordic baker on the scene whose work looks darn amazing. 

Every Sunday

11am to 5pm

Nearest Station: Ebisu, Exit via East Gate for Yebisu Garden Place

Farmers Market at UNU

Up and running at its usual location in front of the United Nations' University, this market is easily one of Tokyo's best. Open every Saturday and Sunday, it presents a fantastic array of growers, producers, and artisans as well as a very tempting set of food trucks. Themes and events help vary the action. Check their website for updates and make this a go-to destination for delicious urban outdoor fun.

Every Saturday and Sunday

10am to 4pm

Nearest Station: Omotesando, Exit B2

Hills Marche

Another excellent weekly market at Ark Hills Karajan Square featuring a compendium of local growers, producers, and artisans. It is worth noting that one of Kokobunji's farmers is on hand each Saturday! Support your Tokyo farmer whenever possible! Check their Facebook page for updates and vendor listings. 

Every Saturday

10am to 2pm

Nearest Station: Roppongi Itchome, Exit 3

Yurakucho Marche/Kotsukaikan Marche

Held every weekend, this market is a mix of regular vendors from Tokyo and near Tokyo as well as vendors who match the theme for the day. The Kotsukaikan is home to the city's best selection of prefectural antenna shops, so the market builds on that with regional and prefectural food themes. It is a ridiculous amount of fun. As always, check their Facebook page for updates and vendor listings.

Every Saturday and Sunday

11:30am to 5:30pm

Nearest Station: Yurakucho, Chuo Exit on the Ginza Side

Know of a market and it's not on the list? Give me a shout, and I'll add it.

Monday, November 8, 2021

Nukadoko Progress Report: The Pickle Pot Goes on Vacation

Hot weather pickling in the nukadoko!
The ginger in the back is for freshening the pot. 
The onion is for aesthetic purposes only, btw.

In August, I decided to head home for a visit. Like many, the pandemic kept me rooted in place, and like many, I could only attend funerals, greet new babies, or fret over family members from very far away. Once I hit full immunity after my second vaccination, I donned my N95 mask and boarded a plane for home to belatedly tend to some of that in person.

However, there was the Pickle Pot to consider. What to do with my little friend? Summer's heat was still well and truly with us in late August, and my partner is no pickler. He's a pickle eater but not a pickler. I considered tucking it in the refrigerator, but our refrigerator freezes things on a whim. This was not a fate I wished for my nukadoko paste. I needed to arrange orusuban, the term Elizabeth Andoh introduces in Kansha, a.k.a. a pickle pot babysitter.

I messaged a friend who lives up the hill from me. I recalled her speaking fondly of a pickle pot she had once upon a time. Her response was immediate. "I'd love to! When can I pick it up?"

So it was that on Sunday before I left, she picked up the pot along with some morning glory seedlings I knew would enjoy her garden fence. I waved as she and the pickle pot drove off for their time together, relieved to have one less worry for my trip. 

The beloved pickle pot.

One month later and a Mystery Unfolds

"Thank you, Joan," she said when she handed back the pot at the end of my two-week quarantine. "The pickles were so good. We really enjoyed it."

The thanks was mine, I told her as I gave her some treats from home to enjoy in exchange. When I lifted the lid to say hello to my pickle pot pal, I noticed that the scent was softer than I remembered, less pungent and sour than usual, and the taste of the pickles followed suit. The consistency wet without being sopping, was the same. 

When I asked if she had done anything special while the pickle pot was in her care, she replied she had not done anything in particular. She had not added more nuka powder, had not thrown in more garlic or ginger (the latter is one of the items Elizabeth recommends for refreshing a pot in the warm season). "Oh, but I did add some salt," she said. "I thought it needed more, so I added a tablespoon and mixed it in."

A Salty Tale

Salt?!? In Kansha, Elizabeth does not mention salt except in the very early stages of creating the pot and as part of vegetable preparation. I assumed, based on my bread-making experience, that the salt was rinsed off the vegetables before immersing them in the pot because it might stop or slow the fermenting process. In bread making, salt is added when transitioning from the sponge to the dough for exactly that reason. What is it up to in the pickle pot?!?

"You make pickles every day, right?" my friend asked. I nodded, not caring to discuss the furuzuke episode. "Well, the vegetables lose water during that process, and so your nukadoko lost its saltiness. The amount to add depends on the size of your pot and your taste preferences."

A little research tells me that maintain the salt balance is pivotal to a healthy pot, not just for flavor. Salt can indeed inhibit the lactic acid bacteria if there is too much, so it is important to regularly monitor the flavor of the pot. (Nukazuke have a distinct flavor, but each home has its own distinct flavor courtesy of the bacteria that live in the house and that are imparted by the makers hands.) So, too much salt, and the pickling process slows, and the taste will be off. Too little, and the pickles will be too sour. 

Elizabeth Andoh's advice to her students in Kansha, " taste pickles at all stages to familiarize themselves with the ways in which the pickles change..." runs through my mind here. Taste isn't the only way to monitor the pot, but it is a key (and darn tasty) way to understand what is happening there.

And a Convert

Speaking of tasting nukazuke, a few days after our chats, my friend messaged to tell me about a new addition to her kitchen: a nukadoko. "You inspired me to start one again!" 

Yes, yes. Another joins the Fermenting Fold...

Friday, October 22, 2021

Tokyo and Yokohama Regional Farmers Markets: October Update


A colorful selection of kabu (turnips) at the Farmers Market at UNU.

It has been some time, to say the least, since I have ventured out to a farmers market. Some, like the Kamakura market, have been running steadily, and others, like the Aoyama Marche, scaled back and ran in other places or shifted online as much as possible. Now that the State of Emergency (SOE) is over, the number of cases down, and the number of vaccinations up, markets opening up again bit by bit. Below is what I have thus far. If you notice something missing or that needs updating, get in touch!

Market of the Sun

This market remains closed. It is wonderful when it's open, so be sure to check their Facebook page for updates. 

Koenji Farmers Market

Saturday, October 16*

This market is open! Held the third Saturday of the month in front of the Za-Koenji Public Theatre, this market is a charming mix of local fare and nearby growers. Check out the website for vendor details.

11am - 5pm


Oiso Farmers Market

This market remains closed. It is a delightful one to visit, especially if you hanker for a seaside wander away from Tokyo. Check their Facebook page for updates.

Nippori Farmers Market

This market permanently closed in April 2020. It was one of my favorites.  

Yokohama Kitanaka Marche

This market remains closed. It is another great one to visit and a welcome addition to Yokohama's delights. Check their Facebook page for updates.

Kichijoji Harmonica Yokocho Asaichi

This market remains closed. Early risers on Tokyo's west side will find this one well worth the effort when it does reopen. Check their Facebook page for updates.

Kamakura Farmers Market

This market is open and well worth the journey. Established in 1933, the market features a different group of farmers each day. All grow Kamakura Brand vegetables, a brand established to delineate the uniqueness and terroir of Kamakura's produce. Check out their website, visit to discover which group(s) of farmers might be your favorite, then make it a regular journey. My advice? Other than getting vaccinated, wear your mask, bring your own shopping bag, and get ready for a feast!

Kamakura Renbai

8am until no veg left

Ebisu/Yebisu Marche

This market is open and running as usual every Sunday. Always a delight for the Tokyo growers it features, I will also recommend checking out Brod. A new baker on the scene specializing in Nordic sourdough, they appear at this market as well as other spots around town. I haven't tried their work yet, but I am looking forward to doing so!

Ebisu/Yebisu Marche

11am - 5pm

Farmers Market at UNU

This market is open and running at its regular location in front of the United Nations University. Easily Tokyo's best market, it is open every Saturday and Sunday with a fantastic variety of growers, producers, craftsmen/women, and a very nice selection of food trucks. Other events often also take place, and if you go, you will have an absurd amount of fun and come away with a bag full of wonderfulness. 

Farmers Market at UNU

10am to 4pm

Hills Marche

This market is open and running at its regular location and times. Tucked in the inner courtyard of Ark Hills Karajan Platz, this market is a treasure trove of vegetables, fruit, baked goods, fresh flowers, and more. 

Hills Marche

10am to 2pm

Yurakucho Marche/Kotsukaikan Marche

This market is open and running in its usual location and regular times. Snug under the overhang of the Kotsukaikan just outside Yurakucho Station, this market runs weekly on Saturdays and Sundays. In keeping with the number of prefectural antenna shops inside, market themes are often regional. This is another highly recommended spot.

Yurakucho Kotsukaikan Marche

11:30am to 5:30pm

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Nukadoko Progress Report: The Forgotten Pickle or Beyond Furuzuke

Nukadoko Cucumber Furuzuke Joan Bailey Japan Farmers Markets
Nukazuke well done and then some.
A cucumber left a bit too long in the nukadoko pickle pot. 

It was bound to happen. This is not one of my prouder moments, but a diary is a place of truth and learning. Here is my truth: I did not check or mix my nuka paste one day.

The Scenario

Right after the carrot halves, I decided to do up some cucumbers for friends. The nukadoko has become something of a communal resource, and I regularly supply my landlord neighbor and a handful of other friends with nukazuke. I am happy to do it as we can't eat everything the pot produces, and it gives me even more excuses to experiment and play. So, I dutifully washed, dried, salt rubbed, sweated, and rinsed some of the season's last cucumbers and put them in the pot around 1pm. I planned to take them out that evening and box them up for delivery the next day.

The Crime

I did not return that evening.

I did not return the next day.

It isn't so much that I forgot the pickle pot, but that I remembered and then promptly forgot it as the day went along. 'Oh yes, I need to mix the pickle pot,' I'd think as I passed through the kitchen from my office and back again to check the weather for signs of the approaching typhoon/get a glass of water/make lunch/find a book for a quote I needed/stop the cat from trying to open the front door AGAIN/feed our semi-feral cat, Mr. B/type just one more paragraph/answer just one more email.

"I'll be there in a minute," I said to the Pickle Pot each time.

I went to bed.

The Dream

That night, I dreamed about my Pickle Pot. In the dream, I approached the pot, sensing something was wrong but not sure what the problem might be. When I took the lid off, cobwebs draped across the interior, and a musty smell filled the kitchen.

My eyes snapped open, and I ran to the kitchen. It was 3:15am.

The Pickles

I admit I was scared, but I was also curious. Elizabeth writes in Kansha that her mother-in-law made the most of these furuzuke or old pickles by serving them thinly sliced and sprinkled with roasted sesame. They would, I thought, be strong-flavored but edible. Elizabeth also writes that it's good to get to know pickles at all stages, and I wanted to know what was happening. In short, I needed to analyze my crime. The next morning after I woke up, I cut off a slice each for R and me.

"That's good," said R. "It's sour, like American sour pickle sour."

I nibbled my bite and agreed. The resulting pickle was not overwhelmingly attractive - a bit yellow green with an interior well worked over by the bacteria living in the pot - but it was definitely sour. It would, we mused, be good on a hamburger.

The Lesson

Two more cucumbers went in at 10:40am on a bright sunny post-typhoon day. The temperature was 88°F (31°C) with 56% humidity. My device told me it felt more like 95°F (95°C), which I found believable. I also set an alarm to remind me to take them out by dinner time. 

I cannot say this is a practice I recommend, but it did work out. I'm also glad that I tried the results. I fell like I have a better understanding of the process and its power, especially in hot and humid weather.

The paste, interestingly enough, is much wetter, and the smell remains very sour. I assume the fluid drawn out by the extended pickling process is what I'm encountering. There is no standing liquid yet, but I sense it will happen soon.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Nukadoko Progress Report: The First Carrot

The first carrot to emerge from the nukadoko.

A conversation with a local farmer at their farm stand informed me that cucumber season was over. To be honest, I was only a little bit sad at this news. Because of the nukadoko, we've eaten more cucumbers than ever before. It's been great and delicious fun, but I'm ready for something new.

As the farmer and I continued chatting, I noticed a selection of bright orange carrots. Like many times found at farm stands, these vivid specimens were most likely the wrong size, wrong shape, etc. Even though they looked perfectly fine to me, they didn't meet the strict standards set by distributors and supermarkets for produce. The quality, though, is the same, so some farmers sell these castoffs from small stands just outside the farm gate. Carrots, then, were up next for the nukadoko.

Preparing the Carrot

I trimmed off the top, peeled, cut the carrot in half as it was quite long, and salt-rubbed each half and set them to the side to sweat while I flipped and mixed the nuka paste. I laid the halves horizontally like cucumbers and buried them. it was about 12:45 PM on a cloudy rainy day. The temperature was 78°F (26°C) and the humidity was 88%.

Carrots are denser and more fibrous beasts than cucumbers, so I had no idea how long it would require before they were 'done.' That evening around 7 PM, I took out the two halves. I tried the narrower end of the carrot first. My developing pickle knowledge made me suspect that because it was slightly smaller in diameter that it might have pickled a bit faster. The taste was tangy, but to my surprise, the texture of the carrot itself had not much changed. Where cucumbers shift in color, become bendy, and have interior 'watery' spots, this carrot glowed as though it had just had a nice bath and scrub. It was not softer in any discernable way, and the tanginess only came as a kind of aftertaste. 

Tasting the Halves

I reburied the other half for retrieval the next morning, and we ate this early half with our dinner that evening. 

The second carrot to emerge from the nukadoko.

The next morning turned out, instead, to be 12:30 PM. The weather was sunny-cloudy and 77°F  (about 26°C) with 86% humidity. Again, to my surprise, the carrot appeared much the same: vivid orange, refreshed-looking, and not bendable at all. The taste was very tangy with a bit of the carrot's natural sweetness floating around the edges. To be honest, this was an interesting flavor, but not one that appealed to us. However, it worked very nicely chopped up on salad. 


That said, I might try it again once the season goes along. If I do, I would cut it in half lengthwise and see what happens. 

Friday, July 30, 2021

Nukadoko Progress Report: Adding the Infusion

Nukazuke fresh from the newly infused pickle pot.

From the very first time I mentioned an interest in starting my own nukadoko, Elizabeth Andoh offered to send some of her nuka paste for what she called an 'infusion.' She explained that the older, mature nuka paste gets added to the newer pot to lend a boost of energy, flavor, stability, and character or personality. Elizabeth also explained that while her infusion will sort of 'take over' the flavor of my pot the two will eventually meld. An infusion isn't necessary by any means, as my pot would have continued to develop on its own, but it is nice as my paste gains a sense of maturity it would otherwise take an extended period of time to develop. It's also a way for experienced picklers to lend a hand to those starting out. 

As Elizabeth mentions in Kansha, pickle pots were once a common feature of Japanese kitchens, and it is not unusual to learn that a pot and its paste have existed for generations, most often passed down from mother-in-law to daughter-in-law; although, not exclusively. 

"The Andoh pot," Elizabeth wrote in an email, "was probably started by my mother-in-law's mother-in-law, which means circa 1895." Elizabeth, however, started her own pot in 1970 under the tutelage of her landlady, Eiko Ohta, receiving infusions first from her and then from her own mother-in-law in 1972. Her pot has since been divided, taken abroad, recombined, and shared many times. 

Elizabeth's infusion fresh from the refrigerator and bag.

When I opened the first bag of Elizabeth's infusion to see if it had survived the overnight journey from downtown Tokyo, I was surprised by its peppery smell. She warned me that if it smelled off or musty in any way not to use it, but the two bags of what appeared to be roughly two packed cups of nuka paste each were well bundled up and accompanied by a bounty of ice packets to keep them cool. Her infusion was also paler in color than the nutty brown of mine (see top photo), and the texture was definitely more paste - wet but not sopping - than my damp, still somewhat coarse nuka.

As advised, I tipped in one bag and thoroughly mixed it with my paste. The texture of my pot became wetter and more paste-like as I kneaded and flipped, the peppery scent rising up. I then set in a lightly salted whole cucumber. Elizabeth suggested waiting about six to seven hours for it to pickle before doing a taste comparison. The temperature was about 84°F (29°C) and 58% humidity. My device said it felt like 91°F (33°C), which was true even with the nice breeze passing through the kitchen.

A cucumber-turned-pickle atop my freshly infused nuka paste.

The resulting pickle was a bit peppery and sour, flavors reflective of the melding underway, and generally more complex and nuanced than any of my previous pickles. (Think undertones and hints rather than simply 'sour.')

I set in another whole cucumber to pickle overnight - from about 10:30pm to around 9am - and found it to be, at least in this season, a bit too long for my taste. The color was good - green gone slightly yellow - and the inside showed definite signs of the bacteria working. The flavor was good but very pungent.

Pickled and pungent with friends, left to right, kombu, garlic, and ginger

"That's Japanese," said my friend, Mai, when I gave her a sample. (Her mother soon sent a request for a similar sample.)

Elizabeth reminded me via email that these longer-pickled veggies are known as furuzuke which literally translates as 'old pickles.' They seem to be a favorite with friends and neighbors out my way, but that is a topic for another post.

I set in another cucumber to see how things would go and took it out around 2pm. That day was full sun, and the heat settled in the house. The temperature when the cucumber went in that morning was 80°F (26°C) and 64% humidity. There was no breeze, and the air felt heavy. The resulting pickle was like the first one post-infusion: peppery and flavorful but not pungent. The cucumber itself was a vivid, polished green and the inside had a few 'watery' spots. The texture was a bit crunchy with the right amount of give. For my palette, this was a perfect pickle.

The perfect pickle...thus far.

Two days after the first infusion, I took the second bag from the refrigerator where it had been awaiting its opportunity since arriving from Tokyo and added it to the pot. At 11:03am, the temperature was 85°F (29°C) with 61% humidity that made it feel like 91°F (33°C). The scent emanating from the pot was still peppery but intensely sour, which Elizabeth assured me signaled busy bacteria rather than doom. 

"That's a good sign," she wrote. Another salt-rubbed cucumber emerged that afternoon around 4:15pm pleasantly polished and flavorful. 

Read more about my Nukadoko Adventures and get inspired to start your own! 

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Nukadoko Progress Report: First Pickles and Infusion Prep

First nukazuke on the plate!

The Pickle Pot has offered up its first pickles! I'm going to say right now that this is somewhat addictive. I haven't been able to stop making and experimenting with the nukadoko. I believe has become something of an obsession. Everything I look at these days is assessed for its pickle potential. 

As Elizabeth was packing up the infusion of paste from her pot for mine, I was preparing to do up the first pickle. I opted for cucumbers as they are in season at the moment and my landlord neighbor had just dropped some off on our doorstep. It was a bit too long to lie flat in my pot, so I cut it in half, and as recommended in Kansha, I salt-rubbed the washed and smoothed halves and left to sweat for a bit while I removed the veg scraps. I also took this opportunity to add some kombu, togarashi (Japanese hot pepper), and a whole clove of peeled garlic followed by the requisite flipping, digging, and flopping to mix everything together. I rinsed the excess salt from the cucumber halves, put them in the pot, covered them with paste, and pressed it flat. I also wiped down the interior, rinsed and dried the lid, wished it luck, and returned it to its spot to see what would happen. 

This occurred around 11am at 83°F (28°C) with 65% humidity with both forecast to increase over the course of the day. It was time for all of us to rest in a cool, shaded location. 

First pickles fresh out of the nukadoko!

That same evening, around 8pm, I fished out the cucumber. It was definitely more flexible, and the taste was noticeably more sour on the ends that had been exposed. It was also clear that the bacteria had been at work on the inside of the cucumber as some spots appeared more 'watery' than others. At that point, it was 74°F (23°C) with 81% humidity. (See top photo.)

I have to say that I was terribly excited and immediately sent off photos to Elizabeth. There was a part of me that felt sure it wasn't going to work for some reason, that when I took off the lid the cucumber emerge the same as it had gone in, and that there would have to be a whole lot of troubleshooting, possibly even a hard reset, i.e. starting over from the beginning. The fact that I had real nukazuke in my kitchen felt fantastic.

Batch number two freshly emerged.
Kombu, garlic, and ginger alongside.

I immediately prepped another half cucumber from the landlord batch, trimming off some of the peel that was a bit scabby. What this meant, though, was that not only did I have an 'open' end on the cucumber half, but there were also some exposed places lengthwise on the cucumber. It was a recommended procedure on one of the websites I'd been reading about nukazuke, so I was curious to see how this might affect the flavor and pickling process. 

Batch number two of nukazuke!

The next morning, I found that the places directly exposed to the nuka paste - the open ends of the halves and the peeled places along the sides - were slightly more sour, but the taste remained mild. The garlic, ginger, and kombu were still present and not really changed. The garlic, in particular, looked as fresh as it had the night before. 

The nuka is definitely moving more toward paste, which is good news. It is wetter and has an increasingly pleasant sour smell. I am looking forward to experimenting with different amounts of time in the paste. Elizabeth doesn't recommend longer than 24 hours in Kansha, but I'd like to try something close to that maximum. I've got all sorts of ideas, but meanwhile, I feel like things are headed in the right direction. Soon the inusion!

Friday, July 16, 2021

Nukadoko Progress Report: First checks


Dry nuka was not what I had in mind.

My first check on my nukadoko revealed...not very much. There was a warm nutty smell with a bit of spice; however, the vegetables hadn't broken down very much, and the texture didn't seem quite right. It wasn't the "coarse, wet sand" described in Kansha. A consult with Elizabeth, a.k.a. my Pickle Pot Advisor, confirmed that more beer was needed and to rebury the vegetable scraps to see what would happen. Other recommendations she had: add more nuka to increase volume; letting the veg "sweat" after being salt-rubbed before immersion in the pot. This draws out moisture locked in the vegetables, which in turn enriches and moistens the pot, and it makes room for the microbe-rich liquid that will be drawn into the vegetables. She also recommended keeping the liquid drawn out and add it, too, to the pot with the veg. 

I added more beer directly to the pot to adjust the texture and reburied the veg. A check on Day Three revealed a sweaty lid and a slightly sour smell. I flipped and flopped and scooped the nuka. I patted the top flat, but Elizabeth later told me this was NOT what should be done at this stage. It gets patted flat ONLY when actively pickling. When NOT pickling, a rougher, loose top is good as it allows for air to flow.

Sweat on the inside of the lid! Yes!

The next day the scent was slightly sour, and there was sweat on the inside of the lid. Hooray! I did the flipping, flopping, and scooping and left it to rest.

Concerned about rising temperatures combined with rain and fluctuations in humidity - anywhere from 70 - 97% - I replaced the veg scraps, letting them "sweat" a bit as my PPA recommended. Over the next few days, there was only a little or no sweat on the inside of the lid, but the scent steadily moved toward sour. There was no visible liquid, but the nuka was becoming damper and damper to the touch.

Ginger and veg hanging out, breaking down.

On my next veg switch, four days later, I added a hunk of ginger. I'd been re-reading the Kansha recipe (I assume I will be able to recite those pages by heart soon) and one of Elizabeth's recommendations for flavor and to offset sourness is a peeled hunk of ginger. I let it and the scraps sweat while I did the dishes and prepared a few things ahead of the heat for lunch and dinner. By the time I returned my attention to them, there was a bit of fluid in the bottom of the scrap-sweating bowl. Everything went in and got buried. When I checked that evening again, the sour scent was less and there was some sweat on the lid again. The veg looked a bit more wilted, as did I at 96% humidity after a long day.

The nuka had gone dark and began to get damp.

Since then, the nukadoko has been steadily becoming damper but maintaining its pleasantly sour smell. Three days later, I switched the veg once more. I've taken to double checking during the day now as the weather fluctuates between heat and rain, high and lowish humidity. I worry, but I'm also curious to see how the nukadoko faires in different conditions. Elizabeth is sending along an infusion from her nukadoko, believing my nukadoko and I are both ready, so here we go to the next stage!

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Nukadoko is Underway!

Nukadoko, diary and ingredients

 My nukadoko is underway! Pictured above are the ingredients recommended by Elizabeth Andoh as well as the pot she helped choose and the diary where I'm keeping notes. (I totally recommend this as it is easy to keep a small notebook near the pot, and it doesn't matter if I get a few bits of nukadoko paste on the paper.) There are a couple of things Elizabeth recommended in a Zoom chat we had, which I'll include here, but the recipe in Kansha is super comprehensive and clear. I could definitely do this with only that book if I didn't have Elizabeth an email away.

One ingredient not listed in the Kansha recipe is the nukamisokarashi in the small green bag in the photo. The mixture contains a variety of items such as eggshells, karashi (mustard), dried citrus peel, togarashi (capsicum), and sanshou (Japanese pepper of the Sichuan pepper clan). Together, these add flavor, help stabilize the nuka paste, and repel insects. The kombu, ginger, etc., listed in Kansha will get added later, once my nukadoko is in full operation.

For now, the rainy season makes this an interesting time with its high humidity and increasing temperatures. The bacteria are highly energetic in these conditions, so the nukadoko must be carefully monitored; hence the diary to see what happens and how the nukadoko changes over time. Elizabeth recommended this diary, which I will base my entries on to track what I pickle, the time of pickling, temperature, weather, humidity, etc. All of these things will ultimately help me better understand my nukadoko and its workings. The observations and actions will also, eventually, become second nature of the care, feeding, and enjoyment of the nukadoko.

I should also add that I mixed everything using my bare, ungloved, washed-and-dried with a clean kitchen towel hands, as this is part of what will help give the nuka some of the bacteria it needs to get going. This literal hands-on technique will also be part of what gives my nukadoko its somewhat distinct flavor. Different hands, different houses, etc., result in slightly different flavors and profiles. (Fascinating, right?) Also, this helps me 'know' my nukadoko. We are in the early stages of our relationship, so for me this is part of really understanding the texture and any changes that will occur as we go along.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Farm to Door: Organic Vegetable Delivery in Japan

Pre-pandemic photo of Ome Farm at the UNU Market!

The pandemic has had a wide variety of effects, and one of these is that people have taken a greater interest in their food. Some of that interest sprang out of supply chain breakdowns and some of it sprang from the fact that going to the grocery store or farmers market felt risky. Farmers found themselves receiving an increased number of requests for their produce and CSA memberships. A number of folks expressed a desire to keep up these new connections even after the pandemic abated. Good stuff, if you ask me.

Here in Japan, farmer's markets have been canceled since April 2020 or so, and I'm avoiding travel as much as possible until I'm fully vaccinated. So, I thought it might be helpful to put together a list of these farms in one place so people could peruse as they wished and find what they wanted.  

Following is an alphabetical list of farms and farmers, their products, primary language, and links to their websites when possible. Offerings are organic unless otherwise stated; however, you should always ask to be sure. 

If you know of a farm or farmer to add, please let me know!

Base Side Farm

Located near Yokota Air Force Base, Base Side Farm uses both organic and conventional methods to grow vegetables including kale, beets, and popcorn (highlight!) year-round for delivery or farm pick-up. Contact via Facebook page or email.

English and Japanese ok!




A group of nine Kobe-area organic farmers got together to offer customers a spectacular array of fresh produce, rice, and even flour year-round. Contact via website to order or stop by the Eat Local Kobe Farmers Market to chat!

Japanese only, but don't hesitate to reach out! They're terrifically kind.


Kasamatsu Farms

Set in the mountains of Kanagawa, Kasamatsu Farms uses the principles of permaculture to grow vegetables and fruit (yes, you read that correctly: fruit!) and will happily send you some fresh eggs, too. Boxes vary in size and content, so peruse their website to see what you might like. They also have a lovely gift box option. Contact via website, Facebook, or Instagram! 

English and Japanese ok!




Midori Farm

Set in Shiga but not terribly far from Kyoto, Midori Farm is a mecca of fun, community, and delicious vegetables. Delivery is local only, but farmer Chuck Kayser also organizes on-farm and online events that are always interesting. Check out the website to see about delivery.

English and Japanese ok!


MomoG Farm

Located in Nagano, MomoG Farm offers a plethora of traditional and modern vegetables, rice, and popcorn for delivery or pick-up at the UNU Farmers Market or one of the other markets Tomonori Nakayama visits. Contact via website or Instagram.

Japanese only! Don't hesitate to reach out, though. Nakayama will find a way to help you!



Nagano, Naturally

Comprised of three farms near Matsumoto, Nagano, the trio of organic producers offers fruit, veg, and sometimes rice and flour. Vegetable boxes are available for delivery from somewhere in June to September or October. Contact via website to order. I will add that they are an excellent source for rhubarb! 

English and Japanese ok!


Niseko Green Farm

All the way up in Hokkaido, this organic farm offers up tasty veg, a farm experience, and even a pizza-making option for those who can visit. Single and multiple-variety boxes are available May to October. Contact via website to order. 

English and Japanese ok!


Oishimon Farm

Year-round vegetable boxes are the name of the game at Oishimon Farm in Saitama. Boxes vary in size from small to large and are packed with seasonal goodness that includes everything from kale to beets (yes, you read that correctly) to tomatoes and Swiss Chard. Contact via website or Facebook page to order.

English and Japanese ok!



Ome Farm

Herbs, an assortment of vegetables, and honey can all be found at this lovely farm nestled in the hills and valleys of Ome. You can also find them at the UNU Farmers Market and a few other spots about town if you feel safe wandering over. Contact via website.

English and Japanese ok!


Pitchfork Farms

Located on Mukaishima, Hiroshima, Pitchfork Farms' fields not only offer up a wonderful bounty of vegetables in soil fertilized by sheep but look out to nearby islands for stunning sunrise views. Surely, this makes things extra delicious? Contact via Facebook.

English and Japanese ok!


Shiga Kajiwara Farm

Also located in Nagano, Shiga Kajiwara Farm grows about 50 varieties of organic vegetables for delivery on a weekly or bi-weekly basis from late May to mid-December. Contact via website.

English and Japanese ok!


Sho Farm

Located in neighboring Kanagawa, Sho Farm offers plastic-free vegetable box delivery for those in eastern Kanagawa starting in May of each year of a selection of vegetables and eggs. Contact via website or email.

English and Japanese ok!


Suirin Natural Farm

Suirin Natural Farm in Nagano uses a combination of organic and natural farming methods to grow roughly 100 different types of vegetables. Delivery is available from about June to December and vegetable sets range in size from small to large. Contact via website to order.

Japanese only! Don't hesitate to reach out, though. They are lovely!


Tanaka Vegetable Farm

Located in Yamaguchi, Tanaka Vegetable Farm grows more than 60 different varieties of vegetables for their vegetable boxes. Size ranges from small to large, and you can arrange for delivery on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis. 

English and Japanese ok!


Thursday, July 8, 2021

Nukadoko Adventures Begin!

The nukadoko Elizabeth Andoh helped me choose.

Introducing my nukadoko or pickle pot! I've decided to take the plunge and start my own nukadoko or rice bran pickle pot at long last. Vegetables ferment in a bed of nuka or rice bran, a leftover of the rice polishing process that brims with nutrition and flavor. The resulting pickles, known as nukazuke, are tart and flavorful as well as packed with B1 and E.

I'm using Elizabeth Andoh's detailed recipe and instructions in Kansha: Celebrating Japan's Vegan and Vegetarian Traditions to get me going, which has also resulted in the two of us making my nukadoko adventure into a project. I'll be documenting the process and sharing the wise words of my self-described Pickle Pot Advisor, Elizabeth Andoh, as we go along!