Sunday, March 09, 2008

Wolfberry - Goji to some

I've always been interested in those little red, oval berries you get floating in soups and that sexy little white almond desert you get in Chinese restaurants. They're Tibetan wolfberries or goji. (I rather prefer the name wolfberry as its constituent parts mean something to me.) In Japanese, kuko. They're very good for you, apparently.

Plants are impossible to find in shops, and they only seem to be available online. I got mine from Nikko Seeds, which sells them as 'cancer-preventing plants, so t'is said'. Nikko Seeds offers the best deal I could find - four plants for 2,940 yen including shipping. Not cheap, but better than a poke in the eye with a sharp wolfberry (these things have thorns, you know).

Growing instructions are confusing. Online sources suggest they require very good drainage (not having on one's clay mound) and full sunshine. The bumf that came with the plants however suggested one should create an environment 'like unto a riverbank or paddy embankment'. These directions seem distinctly contradictory. However, since I have an environment quite like a paddy embankment, I took heart. Anyway, these things apparently grow all over Tibet which I imagine to be quite harsh in many ways, so I think we'll be OK.

Our neighbour has a nice little beagle/terrier mix that he lets roam all over the neighbourhood. I've devised some quite effective means to keep it off our property, lovely though it may be, but in hot pursuit of a cat, it will still launch itself off the embankment and run all over the young vegetables looking for a way out. So I'm thinking that a row of prickly bushes at eye level ought to present an effective barrier to flying beagle/terrier mixes.

Now if I may share a little dream with you: These things will grow well. I'll plant cuttings and have them sprouting all over my garden. Birds will eat lots of them, and passers-by may pick some too (there are a number of interesting middle-aged couples who take walks up our street and who stop to chat.) But even after we've eaten some fresh, put some in alcohol, and dried some others, there will be a surplus of berries. By the time the wolfberries are growing like billy-ho, we'll have chickens. Using the eggs from the chickens and the dried wolfberries or the wolfberries scooped out the alcohol, we'll make pound cakes -- absolutely sublime, organic, 'cancer-fighting' pound cakes. These we'll sell at an exorbitant price through local marketing. With that, the figs, the olives, the eggs, and the lemon marmalade, we'll be well on the way to replacing translation with a high value added farming enterprise. Oh, and did I mention the avocado?


Today I planted a load of citrus trees.

I planted:
  • Mikan
  • Dekopon
  • Ponkan
  • Iyokan
  • Lemon
These varieties should see me through the winter season as they each fruit in succession. All of these fruits are available in Ehime Prefecture in abundance, and at very low prices. For example, a bag of dekopon costs 100 yen for about 8~10. But since we eat so many of them, it makes sense to grow them ourselves. I eat 4~5 of these citrus fruit at one meal... The peel also makes a good composting material.

The lemon will be good for making lemon alcohol which is yet another drink I like. I expect we'll also make lemon marmalade with it too, something you rarely see in shops here. We once had a surfeit of iyokan when my rented allotment included several iyokan trees, and we made some very good marmalade out of them using a pressure cooker.

All these varieties are produced by grafting, which seems like a very clever technology. The trees have a little bit of black plastic wrapped around the cut. I wonder what happened to the tops of the rootstocks after they got supplanted by citrus...

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Hello, Blossom

In addition to the glorious new weeping plum below the dining-room window, we have an indoor cherry blossom, care of the Co-op. The beauty of this is that while it smells wonderful and has little petals that fall in a picturesque manner, nobody can get in and spread a blue tarp under it, grill cheap, smelly meat, and talk drunkenly at the tops of their voices. I call this, "The Return of Wabi-Sabi" and chuckle to myself, although nobody else seems to know what I'm talking about.

It's even supposed to produce an abundant crop of real cherries, all indoors. Bring it on! (as we venturesome types like to say).

Frankenfood! - Dainan

Today I noticed that one of my daikon was going weird. It had started to shoot, but instead of daikon flowers, it was a nanohana (rape) flower. Frankenfood! The nanohana are flowering all over the place here, and I suppose the pollen landed on the daikon.

So I pulled it up, and it was a respectably sized daikon, for all its weirdness. The missus cooked it with pork in the pressure cooker (heating time - 1 min. Super-efficient.) It was very sweet and tender. Some of the leaves went into miso soup. It all went very well with some local sake.

In these days of rising wheat prices, we must learn to put bread and beer aside, and eat and drink rice again.