Hungry for spring

February 20, 2011 | By | Comments (2)

Tokyo turnips (photo courtesy

I love planning our one-block feasts. It’s the time when we cooks get to be in full-blown Wish Mode.

A couple of weeks ago, remembering the beautiful, delicate Japanese food from the Worlds of Flavor conference last fall in St. Helena, I started thinking about a spring menu we could grow that would use some of the things I’d had there.

Baby Tokyo turnips, bright white and almost candy-sweet. Long, slender baby carrots in some kind of shocking color. Feathery, spicy mizuna and fleshy-leaved tatsoi. Rice would be nice, and we dreamed about it for a second or two, but it’s totally impractical given it needs to be flooded as it grows. So we’ll use the grain we have lots and lots of: quinoa.

That led me to this menu. It could change totally, depending on how things grow and what seeds Johanna is able to find. Luckily we’ll have fresh eggs, milk and all that comes from milk, honey, a bunch of different herbs, dried chiles, and assorted other pantry stuff to play with.

• Chawanmushi (silky, smooth savory egg custard) with bright wisps of vegetable something—and maybe shiso

• Quinoa cakes with tender and spicy Japanese greens

• Sugar snap peas in here somewhere

• Homemade tofu (we will have to “import” the soy milk, from Hodo Soy Beanery—makers of fantastic fresh soy milk—because we can’t grow soybeans until summer). We might serve it in some kind of gentle broth with home-grown shiitake mushrooms and daikon. I’m hoping we can flavor the broth with pine needles. Really.

• Mini eclairs filled with kaffir lime cream (Okay, not Japanese, but at least Asian, and we can definitely make choux pastry—we’ve grown wheat, we’ve ground flour. And we have a kaffir lime tree that has managed to hang in there for several seasons).

• And—fingers crossed—our very own green tea.

I wish we had seaweed and ginger and soy sauce, but you can’t have everything.

Johanna went right out and bought a bunch of great-looking seeds from Kitazawa Seed Co. Including for this plant, a complete stranger to me—but it sounds promising:


Komatasuna ‘Green Boy’
(a.k.a. spinach mustard; tender and succulent;
can have a spicy bite)

We might, amazingly enough, be able to grow wasabi—the real deal, not the bright green stuff you get at your neighborhood sushi restaurant.

Next: Johanna plants the menu.


  1. Margo True

    Hi Tay. The answer is yes–ideally. Or at least lots and lots of water. However, it does apparently survive in soil too–the flavor might be, er, compromised, though. We’re about to order rhizomes, plant them (we sure aren’t planning to keep running water going), and report to you—whenever we harvest—just HOW compromised “compromised” actually is.

    February 25, 2011 at 7:04 am
  2. Tay

    oooh…wasabi? that would be amazing. doesn’t it need to grow in running water?

    February 21, 2011 at 2:01 am

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