Squash Blues and Fruit and Veg Rant.

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gonbechan
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Squash Blues and Fruit and Veg Rant.

Post by gonbechan » Mon Aug 08, 2016 6:51 pm

So today in the supermarket, a squash I have never seen in Japan before in all my long years.
Very expensive, 45yen per 100g.
Of course 400Yen for something I don't know is not going to happen, but of course I googled it and found out it is ...
from Japan.. !?
Red kuri squash, apparently delicious and indigenous to Japan.
So how come I have never seen one?
Sounds like a breeze to grow, 90 something days all in all and very hardy as well as apparently rather tasty.

We did buy a spaghetti squash, which I rather like and have not seen before in Japan apart from the more expensive supermarkets.

It has always baffled me why vegetable (and fruit) choices are so limited in Japan.
Why aren't we offered more than 2 or 3 potato varieties?
Why only nankin kabocha?
1 kind of cucumber?
rarely any kinds of mushrooms besides the native varieties?
Why the lack of canned and frozen veg varieties?
WHY DO 6 Brussel Sprouts cost 450yen??
Why does one mango cost 800yen?
Why are zucchini so expensive when they multiply like flies on a vine...

It is only in the last 15 years or so that there have been more than just トマト and プチトマト, and even now there are only a few kinds of tomatoes available.

I have been in Japan for an extraordinary amount of years.
When I first arrived, 'puchi tomatoes' were a rare delicacy.
Cheese only came in wheels of 6 triangles or sliced processed cheese.
Corn soup and consomme were the only 2 choices.
There were 2 kinds of onions, 'new' and regular.
There were 2 kinds of potatoes, may queen and danshaku. (which is pretty close to where we still are now)
Bell peppers had still not made a debut in regular supermarkets, and only 'piman' were available.
Steak was rarely sold in supermarkets, usually only around 'Bonus Season' and way too expensive for mortal folk.
If you wanted proper cheese, you had to go to Sogo or Daimaru and pay a King's ransom for a round of camembert.

Mind you, rice cost upward of 6000yen per 10kg, milk was about the same price as it is now, and eggs were more expensive.
A lot of things were more expensive, actually.. and there was way, way less choice.
(One would also have to travel miles and miles to visit a store with a choice of like 30 English books and calling home would set one back by 2~3 man for a 30 minute call)

But, it is still very hard to get a whole chicken or a whole loaf of bread among other things.

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Re: Squash Blues and Fruit and Veg Rant.

Post by Zasso Nouka » Mon Aug 08, 2016 8:37 pm

gonbechan wrote:Red kuri squash, apparently delicious and indigenous to Japan.
Was that Akazukin Kabocha from Sakata no Tane ?

Image

You can either sow it early in February under low tunnels with mulch or later on in May, we grow ours early and get a crop before the rainy season starts but the vines are able to survive tsuyu and carry on producing fruit right into the summer. It's not quite as hoka hoka as green kuri squash but a real winner roasted or in soup, very sweet and a prolific producer. A single packet of seeds would produce more kabocha than you could possibly use
gonbechan wrote: We did buy a spaghetti squash, which I rather like and have not seen before in Japan apart from the more expensive supermarkets.
Somen kabocha can be really hard to sell, we didn't bother growing them this year as they often sit on shelves without ever selling and you then have to chuck them. Most customers don't seem to know what to do with them so they don't sell.

You'll have to get your own veggy patch on the go, then you can grow as many interesting varieties as you like or subscribe to the HiBaro Veggy Box scheme :whistle:

Perhaps part of the problem lies with new varieties being hard to sell or older farmers sticking with what they know will sell well. When we first started selling a broad range of French potatoes it was really hard work getting people to try something different and they would often remain unsold, it's only now that we have built up our reputation in the local area that customers are willing to try new varieties.

On the cheese front, see if you have a Metro nearby, we picked up Emmental, Gruyère and a nice mature cheddar last week.

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Re: Squash Blues and Fruit and Veg Rant.

Post by gonbechan » Tue Aug 09, 2016 1:34 am

Cheese has come a long way in Japan. We can get quite a few varieties very locally (A-Price) or at Costco.
There is also always Amazon Pantry.
I can clearly remember when I first saw 'Pizza Cheese' (a bag of grated non processed cheese) in the supermarket.
The previous Emperor was not yet dead, but about to be. And there it was... CHEESE.
I bought it and went home and made some proper Macaroni Cheese, with the whole goddamn bag.. all melty and stringy with a proper melted cheese crust on the top.
Round about the same time, minestrone soup made it's debut in Japan restaurants, and soonish after on the shelves of supermarkets, in the form of campbell's soup.

Grapes too have slowly gone from being just highly expensive Kyoho and Muscat to more affordable Peony (from Hyogo) and Delaware plus some not so nice imported varieties.
Ume season still makes me crave for apricots.
I cannot wait to eventually be settled and have some stone fruit trees.

I wonder what effect the TPP is going to have on food in Japan?

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Re: Squash Blues and Fruit and Veg Rant.

Post by gonbechan » Tue Aug 09, 2016 1:35 am

When is the Hibaro Veggie box starting?! I need to be your pilot customer.

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Re: Squash Blues and Fruit and Veg Rant.

Post by Zasso Nouka » Tue Aug 09, 2016 6:27 am

gonbechan wrote:I cannot wait to eventually be settled and have some stone fruit trees.
Growing your own is probably the easiest way to diversify your options I reckon
gonbechan wrote:I wonder what effect the TPP is going to have on food in Japan?
Aside from whether it will come to pass or not (both Clinton and Trump oppose the TPP so it's future is looking rather unsteady at the moment) there is still the issue of if customers will buy something they are unfamiliar with, it can be really depressing spending your time nurturing and growing something for it to remain unsold and have to be eventually dumped. Which is why we now grow a much less diverse range of foreign vegetables and concentrate on what we know can sell. Something like carrots may not be an exciting vegetable to grow but you can sell them every single day of the week so we grow loads of them. Growing and selling anything out of the ordinary can be a lot more work to find outlets willing to take a risk on something new but when you do have a success it is quite gratifying, you also need to invest in proper storage solutions when you can't just offload your entire crop to JA warehouses.

Every year we see 'Farm Australia' at the Agri Expo and chat with the farmers that have come over and they have a fantastic lineup of fruit and veg to offer yet so far have not managed to make any significant inroads and vegetables unlike rice are not covered by punitive import taxes.

We do dispatch vegetables to chefs in Tokyo by cool takyubin but it's economically viable for them given the high price they normally pay for vegetables or their need for things that just aren't available in supermarkets but I'm not sure if it would ever be financially worthwhile for ordinary domestic customers to run a veggy box scheme. You've got extra packing to factor in, costs of the boxes and other packing and time to deliver it to the courier depot, all of that pushes the price up. Maybe one day :pray:

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Re: Squash Blues and Fruit and Veg Rant.

Post by Zasso Nouka » Mon Aug 22, 2016 6:52 am

Update on the Akazukin Kabocha,

They don't store well. According to Gendai Nogyou you don't need to mature them like normal kuri kabocha and should use them within a month of picking, which is impossible if growing a packet of seeds for yourself. The few remaining ones we had left started developing mould spots whereas normal kuri kabocha will keep for months in the right conditions.

Anyway, at least we've started the butternut harvest now.

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Re: Squash Blues and Fruit and Veg Rant.

Post by donguri » Thu Sep 08, 2016 1:39 pm

I've found that conventional supermarkets have the least variety in their produce sections. Farm markets, roadside veg stands or the local JA sponsored market have so much more variety in things like squashes, potatoes, grapes, leafy green things.... and CHEAP! Of course you can't count on finding them all year, only during season, but what could be better?

Is this the appropriate place to state my deep love of those Andes potatoes with the deep reddish-purple skin and the yellow flesh?!

Brussels sprouts were a shocker for me too~what can you do with 6 brussels sprouts? At my local farm market though, a good sized bag is usually only 200-300 yen. I suppose it really depends on where you live though.

No loaves of bread?? Seriously? I mean, I know it can be tough to find certain types of bread here, and a loaf will often set you back, but it seems like bread and bakeries are everywhere these days.

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Re: Squash Blues and Fruit and Veg Rant.

Post by Zasso Nouka » Fri Sep 09, 2016 6:22 am

donguri wrote:No loaves of bread?? Seriously? I mean, I know it can be tough to find certain types of bread here, and a loaf will often set you back, but it seems like bread and bakeries are everywhere these days.
They are but it still seems difficult to get a proper Ciabatta, Baguette or Focaccia.

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Re: Squash Blues and Fruit and Veg Rant.

Post by gonbechan » Fri Sep 09, 2016 8:52 am

For sure you can find loaves of spongy white bread at small bakeries.
One can also find mediocre baguettes but for the most part, if one wants more than that it is usually easier and cheaper (and tastier) to bake one's own.
Of course you can get bread from Costco, but not all of us have easy access, so I am talking about the average shopping destination.
Also, to be honest, I don't find Costco's bread that good.

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Re: Squash Blues and Fruit and Veg Rant.

Post by gonbechan » Fri Sep 09, 2016 8:54 am

PS we have 2 lovely butternut squash in the veggie drawer.

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