Tuesday, October 23, 2012

In the Pumpkin Patch (Day 1 of 2)

I'm in Tochigi prefecture this week filming a new episode of my cooking show "Ian's Kitchen" (website).  The premise of the show is simple: 

  • 1.  Go to a farmer's market to get fresh and delicious locally grown seasonal produce.
  • 2.  Ask them to introduce me to the farmer who grew that episode's main ingredient.
  • 3.  Film a short documentary with the farmer in their field.
  • 4.  Cook with the fresh ingredients.
  • 5.  Enjoy the simple and delicious food!

Autumn is here, and this episode will feature pumpkins (along with apples and sweet potatoes).  Day 1 of filming always starts with a trip to the farmer's market.  We found three varieties of  pumpkins, and they were gorgeous!

At the farmer's market, I found several varieties of pumpkins.

The green one is the most common variety of pumpkin found in Japan, and the orange one is grown from foreign seeds.  I was told the white pumpkin is best for long-storage and if kept carefully wrapped in newspaper in a cool, dry place that it would keep until at least March of next year!

While at the farmer's market we met Mrs. Yamaguchi (who was there to drop off some of her lovely sweet potatoes), and she offered to introduce us to meet Mr. Negishi, the owner of a nearby organic farm.  She brought us to Mr. Negishi's pumpkin patch, and despite the rain, or perhaps even becasue of it, it was so beautiful.  Mr. Negishi proudly told me about how difficult it was to get certified as an organic farmer and about the different fruits and vegetables he grows year-round.  He even keeps honey bees!

Despite the rain, Mr. Negishi was full of smiles in his organic pumpkin patch.

Mrs. Yamaguchi then invited us to stop by her home where she kindly served us refreshments and we visited.  Moments like that remind me of how much I love being back in Tochigi (where I lived for three years when I first came to Japan).  On the way out, Mrs. Yamaguchi presented us with some of her home-grown treats.  In the photo below, I'm holding a Devil's Tongue (description here), a pumpkin and chestnuts.  Mrs. Yamaguchi is holding a "jinenjo", a long Japanese yam (description here), which is evidently extremely hard to dig up.  My producer told me that it is a delicacy typically only able to be enjoyed by the person who actually spends the hours necessary to dig it up.

Mrs. Yamaguchi presented us with some of her home-grown delicacies.

Tomorrow I'll be in the kitchen with my co-host Daiichi, and we'll be cooking with all of the lovely produce.  Stay tuned!

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