gaijinfarmer

Organic farming, Japanese recipes


2 Comments

It's rice planting time in Japan!

The landscape is changing here every day.  Fields that were dry yesterday are flooded today, and the rice planters are out in force from morning to evening.  Some warmer areas of the peninsula are completely planted, and depending on the water supply some neighborhoods are just now setting their seed.

We were a day ahead of schedule and had some pretty short sprouts, but our rice is in and things are looking good.  This year’s been much colder than most: crops in general are two weeks behind average, and lots of people are reporting that their rice sprouts aren’t growing to expectation.  Ours were generally plenty tall, with some strange short spots due to too much dirt over the seeds in the trays or temperature differences inside the tunnels.

To prep for planting the rice, the fields are flooded and then gone over one last time with a tractor to level the ground under the water.  Then pretty much every field bigger than spittin distance wide is planted with a 田植え機 (ta-ue-ki), or rice field planting machine.  Since we don’t have one we contract with a friend who does.

Why don’t we have one?  The big difference between running a field with this machine and doing it with a regular tractor is that with a regular tractor, if you make a mistake you can just go around again and cover your tracks, but if you’re planting rice you only have one go-round.  You really have to know how to cover all the ground without repeating yourself.  So it’s not just a matter of having the machine and the time.

The tractor itself looks like a cross between a bumblebee, and the queen ant if the worker ant were a Segway.  But blue.  Maybe they threw Hello Kitty’s cousin in the vat as an experiment?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It rides on wheels that look like they were lifted from a turn-of-last-century bicycle, so as to disturb as little mud as possible.  The rear consists of a curved feed device for feeding the seed trays toward the planters, which are helped by gravity but controlled by a belt that moves each row of seed trays in steps toward the planting devices.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a hopper for distributing moto-goe, or fertilizer, to the base of the planted seedlings, and finally, there are four rows of rotating twin planting forks.  The videos will go a long way to help explaning the whole thing.

Since the rows have to be straight the four planting forks can’t move side to side; thus, the entire feed mechanism moves back and forth, with the belt feeders notching the seed trays down one row with each pass like a manual feed typewriter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Often early and the morning and with little notice, the driver’s wife swoops by our garden to pick up trays in a small truck and then runs off to the first field.  The planting tractor is carried directly to the field in a heavy truck.

At first the seedlings are transferred from the trays to a transport tray; the root system holds the whole thing together at this point, making transport easy.  Then they’re slid onto the feed mechanism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tractor has trays near the driver’s compartment for holding extras; in the case of one of our smallest fields eight trays were loaded into the feeder, with two extra near the driver just in case.  But our driver is really good with his settings, and plants the fields with just a little left over for hand-planting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While the tractor’s going, the driver’s wife gets in the field and plants the corners by hand which the tractor can’t do.  When they’re done, we get in the field with our special boots that are held on with some extra loops of rubber.  We check that each planted spot has five or so sprouts in it.  If there are too few we add some since they grow better in bunches.  The mud is really soft so it’s just a matter of tearing off some sprouts from the bunch, squish in the mud, and repeat.  The hard part is keeping your balance while shin-deep in mud.  No one’s fallen over yet…

 

Advertisements


2 Comments

World record take no ko bamboo shoot?

We went up to the mountain today and bamboo shoots are sticking out just everywhere!  Quite a change from my last posts on recipes for preparation of bamboo shoots, from which a full harvest was a colander-ful, now we can easily gather more than we can carry off the mountain at once and still leave lots of shoots to grow into bamboo.

Like I mentioned, parts of the  mountain are quite steep but the bamboo has no trouble sending up shoots through its root structure any old where, and many of these are perched out on cliffs, leaving me scrambling for footing while digging and cutting them out.  One that I found today looked like one of those but when I started digging it made a turn underground … and kept on going … and going …

By the time I finally uncovered the roots it looked like this–keep in mind that when I saw it, only the top three or four inches were visible above the ground.  The only way I was able to dig it out was that it was on the edge of a steep section that allowed me to peel back the dirt easily.

Hiro said the final result reminded her of a wild boar.  While the two are an order of magnitude apart, I know what she means.  This was an incredible find–so unusual that we called the newspaper.  Hope they print it!  7.2 kg, or almost 16 lbs, as much as a 5-month-old baby!


4 Comments

Bamboo shoot recipe: Japanese style

Following up on my previous post on how to gather wild Japanese young bamboo shoots, here is how to prepare them.  Or, as we say in the local dialect, Let’s Cookingu! Please also check out KitchengardenJapan’s interesting post on ‘hatsumono’, or the first foods of the season.

Since you’re working with a plant that grows as much as 2 feet every day, you can be sure that it’s not going to wait around for you.  Bamboo shoots spoil more quickly than most foods, in raw or cooked form.  Get your shoots prepped and cooked as soon as you get home, and enjoy them within a few days.

If you have the sprout as it came out of the ground, hold it firmly in one hand and cut as shown.  You’ll cut 30-50% of the way through the sprout, or as far as the center at most.

Peel the layers back and remove the tough ones.  When you get to the soft core stop peeling, and cut the top off.  To cut the top, start at the tip with your knife–you’ll probably notice that it’s hard to cut through.  Don’t force it.  Continue toward the wide end until you can easily remove the tip.

If you got your shoots at Uwajimaya or another local store (Vietnamese and Thai groceries also often have raw shoots), then you’re at this point already.  Take your shoot and cut it into halves or quarters radially, depending on how big it is.

Add these to a pot of cold water, and add rice bran (what’s left after making brown rice into white rice) in an equal weight to the shoots to remove ‘aku’, or the natural bitterness.  Bring to a boil, simmer for 2 hours, and let cool to room temperature, covered.  Check the hardness of the shoots and boil longer if necessary.

Rinse and then soak in cold water for half a day or longer.  You can keep the shoots in this manner for up to a week, refrigerated, but you must change the water every day.

To flavor your bamboo shoots, use this recipe:

Add a kelp sheet to cold water and heat; just before it boils remove the sheet.  When it boils add a handful of dried bonito flakes and turn off the heat.  Remove the flakes or strain them out after they sink; don’t squeeze them or your broth will be bitter.  If you don’t have these ingredients you can buy ‘hondashi‘ powder and it will work just fine.

Add the bamboo shoots, and for every kilogram of shoots add 2 tablespoons each of sake, mirin, brown sugar, and soy sauce.  Salt to taste.  Simmer until the flavor is as rich as you like.  Before the bamboo gets too soft, add seaweed if you like and season to finish.

Enhanced by Zemanta


2 Comments

Eye-opening podcast on soil health

If you compost, garden, or are thinking about starting, this is an excellent listen! Soil doctor Doug Weatherbee gives an easy to understand introduction to the components of soil and how we can adjust some variables. Click for part 1 of soil health podcast , then follow the link on that page for part 2.

We’ve had heavy rain followed by light rain for a few days now.  The mulch that we laid down over the potatoes did its job just fine and protected the soil, whereas the rest of the exposed areas took a beating.  In retrospect, I should have saved some mulch to protect the spinach and carrot seeds.  I think they’ll be fine though.

I’m eagerly awaiting my first sprouts, and also the first fruiting of oyster mushrooms, which I’ve planted in a few media for testing! 🙂