Cooking vegetables in season

Last weekend and yesterday, I asked Iemon-san and Itou-san (farmers who are at Chigasaki farmers market) about how I, as a consumer, can expect the best season of each vegetable. They indicated some of key factors.

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  • Each vegetable species has a general seasonality, for example, daikon radish has two seasons, spring planted ( harvesting from May to June ) and autumn planted (harvesting from mid October to February).
  • One species has many varieties. There are more than 100 varieties of daikon radish, and each of them has its own planting, growing, and harvesting schedule. It is a character of the variety, and is very important to follow them to get the best result.
  • Also the flavor vary as the season progresses. Early daikon radish has a pungent flavor as it belongs to the mustard family, then it gets more sweetness during a cold winter. Vegetables increase their sugar content to protect themselves from freezing, so it is more like a common science.
  • Vegetables are whole foods, but for example, daikon leaves are suitable to eat either if they are young in the early season, or if they are matured in the peak season.

Itou-san kindly explained me how actually he manages his planting schedule.

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Farmer's wagon
Farmer's Wagon Itou, 0467-51-3296
Opened on Tuesday and Friday, 10:00-17:00

  1. The planning starts with "a harvesting plan". He needs to harvest some vegetables every week over a year to satisfy customers at the Chigasaki farmers market and his vegetable stand (opened on Tuesday and Friday).
  2. He consider general seasonalities of vegetable species to draw a rough sketch.
  3. Then he selects certain varieties of the species based on their characters. For example, he sows the Daikon seeds five times ( every two weeks from August to October ) by mixing varieties, so that he can harvest ceaselessly during a season.
  4. Additionally as an organic farmer, sometimes he needs to shift the schedule to avoid certain diseases and insects which are not significant problem if pesticides was used.
  5. Some vegetables, for example, potatoes can be stored months after harvesting, and some varieties get even sweeter in a storehouse. He currently sells three kinds of potatoes which has been harvested in June, but in-fact they taste better now.
  6. Finally he merge these vegetable harvesting streams into a single year around planting plan.

It takes experience to fulfill these factors, and it is the most common topic when friend farmers encounter. Some farmers consider the knowledge as a business secret, but Ito-san is open especially to help younger generation.

Probably a consumer doesn't need to know all of the backyard, but some basic understandings will help to:

  • buy a seasonal vegetable which has the most nutrition and flavor at the lowest price
  • choose a local produce when it is in the narrow peak
  • pick a suitable recipe by considering the change in flavor
  • eat the whole vegetable by understanding its nature
  • store or preserve in home, maintaining the quality

Still sounds too professional ? But these were basic knowledge everybody had 50 years ago. Some skills are hard to regain when they were lost, but these are still viable and look like rather communication problem which might be solved by the information technology.

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Young daikon radish and dried sardines salad Recipe by Jun Kaneko | Cookpad

This is a seasonal salad from the autumn farmers market. Young dried sardines have intense flavor that works well with pungent daikon leaves.

Ingredients

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Young daikon radish leaves from Farmer's wagon

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Young dried sardines from Gorobikimaru

via Cookpad International