Friday, June 21, 2013

Producing our own food, and making friends at the garden

Today’s coffee(s): Ethiopia, East Timor

This is such a nice café. Do make a visit if you get a chance.

It’s been a busy week. Sunday was Keith’s first children’s-message-in-Japanese and a sushi party for the kids at church, and then on Monday (our day off) we went fishing. My hat fell in the water; thankfully our friend, Yanaoka-san fished it out for me… but by “fished out,” I mean literally, with a fishing pole, which still had the worms attached to it. Let’s just say I got sunburned after that.

Yanaoka-san with my hat
We caught some fish! The little flounder (カレイ in Japanese) we had for supper right away. It was good just as is, cooked in the fish grill that’s built into our stove. The ugui (don’t ask me what that is in English) we made into fish dumplings and had in a hotpot Wednesday night. Actually, Yanaoka-san sent us home with the whole catch—he caught a couple of ugui too. In order to make the fish dumplings, we had to first go out and buy a food processor. We tested it on yukari powder (pickled, then dried red shiso ground to a powder) and ice for kakigouri (snow cones). It works. But it didn’t grind up the fish bones quite as well as we would have liked… oops. Not the most successful of kitchen experiments, but fun and tasty all the same.

Is this one big enough to eat?
Keith's ugui
This morning I spent 3 hours at our vegetable garden. I’ve always wanted a vegetable garden, and I admit that I’ve coveted other people’s community garden plots… my mom might wonder about that statement, since I didn’t help out much in her garden at home… but I find that I’m remembering lots of random bits that I learned from her about gardening over the years.

Garden plot, 2 weeks ago
Last week
This morning I rode my bike to the vegetable garden. It takes about 10 minutes usually, but today it took a little longer, since I was trying not to spill the pepper and basil seedlings in my bike basket. We had a couple weeks of sun followed by quite a bit of rain, so there was quite a lot of weeding to do. I had a lesson in pruning tomato plants from our neighbour at the garden plot, Saitoh-san.

A few weeks ago we saw Saitoh-san at the garden for the first time. We said the usual greetings (はじめまして—“it’s the first time we meet” and so on) and proceeded to talk about what kinds of vegetables we planned to grow. Somehow we got around to talking about melons—Saitoh-san is known to be good at growing them, and Keith wants to learn how. Saitoh-san offered to teach us. We bought a seedling, and he took it home with him to take care of until it got a bit bigger.

The next Sunday at church, we talked to our landlady, also named Saitoh, about gardening.

Landlady: I hear you’re interested in watermelon.
Me: Yes! There’s a nice man at the garden who is teaching us how to grow them. His name is Saitoh too.
Landlady: I know! (laughs) That’s my husband.
Me: … Ehhhhhh??? Well then, please say hi to your husband and our watermelon for us.

I had only seen our landlady together with her husband once—but still feeling slightly embarrassed that I didn’t recognize him.

Our watermelon, staying warm in a plastic tent
It looks like we’ll have some radishes soon, and we can start eating the lettuce any time. Hooray! One of the cucumber vines has produced a few flowers and some tiny cucumbers. We’re very excited about that too.

Baby cucumber... so cute!
In other food-related news, I’ve just started a second batch of umeboshi (Japanese pickled plums), which smell like heaven. The ume plums for umeboshi have to be completely blemish-free, so Keith and I made ume syrup with the rejects. Ume syrup mixed with soda water is one of our favourite summer drinks. I also added red shiso and shin-shouga (new ginger) to the first batch of umeboshi. We’ve planted daikon, radishes, cucumber, and turnips in the garden, so we’re excited about the pickles we’re going to eat this summer and fall!

Tomatoes! They're in bags to protect them from the wind.
Keith checks out the kabocha squash
There’s a lot of waiting and hoping and praying involved in gardening… and also in making pickles! I’ll probably write more about that later.

As a bonus, here’s a few pictures from the sushi party.

Yokokawa-san, the MC for the party games... when he came out in this getup, I was laughing so hard that I cried...
Keith leads the "sea-seashore" game
Osaka-san, our resident sushi chef, explains how to make temakizushi. Art in the background is by Keith.
They've got expensive taste. The first thing to go was the crab. When I was a kid, I wouldn't have touched this stuff with a 10-foot pole. I had no idea what I was missing out on...

1 comment:

Joann Wilson said...

It was inevitable that someone who enjoys vegetables as much as you would eventually grow your own. I'm glad to know that you learned some things from me - I think most of all you caught the enjoyment of gardening. It is such a wonderful treat to watch the plants mature and to pick fresh veggies and eat them on the spot. Everything looks very healthy.