Japan Week #04 – My Japanese Father and Organic Vegetables
October 8th, 2012
So I’ve made friends with my neighbor. The same neighbor I posted about previously who is raising baby boars. He’s 70-something years old and his name is Ota-San. His wife who’s also very sweet is Ima (but I also call her Ota-San because of the last name-respect policy in Japan). He says he likes me and while I’m in Japan he’s my father. He can’t speak English and I can’t speak Japanese but we actually do fairly well because we both use a lot of body language naturally.
He’s also a organic farmer. When he saw us going to the market he told us to never buy vegetables at the market because they use pesticides and other farming techniques that compromise the produce. He then proceeded to give me about 10Kg of organic vegetables from his farm for free. He says he has so much extra that it’s no worry. Here is a sample of some of the vegetables he gave me.
First is a Japanese squash called a Kobocha. It’s quite similar to a squash. This one was quite tasty. I’d say it was softer and more flavorful than your typical squash.
Next up he gave us some Japanese eggplant which are typically a smaller version of North American eggplant. Taste is pretty similar. The advantage is it’s already a good grilling size so less cutting is required.
He then gave me a hue bag of red and white onions with a assortment of potatoes.
Finally he gave us these peppers called manganjitogarashi which are sweet-hot peppers which I used to make a lunch for my work one day.
Here are some of the dishes we cooked with said vegetables.
Ota-San also gave us some rice that his friend who’s also an organic farmer made. He said even if you are growing organically locally you still have to deal with the fact the water system has impure water. So to rectify this situation they went up into a mountain and built a staircase pattern on the mountain to place their rice fields (rice fields need to be flat). This allows the pure natural mountain water to run down the staircase of rice and hydrate the rice. He gave me 2 bags of rice. One smaller bag was current year rice which is the most prized rice. The other was second year rice. We cooked up the first year rice and the most noticeable thing about it was it has a very “Clean” flavour. Also the natural stickiness of the rice was very apparent. Even after washing off most of the excess gluten. Unfortunately I have no pictures of the rice.
I’ve been racking my brain for ways to bring something to Ota-San too. I’ve brought him some semi-organic chocolates from Vancouver. That said I tend to think about a lesson I learned in Seth Godin’s book Linchpin where the need to reciprocate can be a disease that can ruin the gift. That said I know Ota-San likes to smoke and I have a backup of menthol cigarettes in case he ever runs dry.
I’m a very lucky man. Vegetables are very expensive in Japan. I’ve had my grocery bill significantly reduced while at the same time have had the quality of the produce I receive increased greatly.