Edible

Is this Shinjuku sidewalk “nanohana” edible?

nanohana_flower_sidewalk_nichome_shinjuku
これは食べられますか。新宿二丁目の歩道で、菜の花が自然に顔を出しています。

It’s spring, and vegetables are growing spontaneously on Tokyo’s sidewalks.

Gorgeous lettuce shows edibles can be very ornamental in small spaces

heirloom_lettuce_nakano_balcony
このカラフルレタスはすごい美味しくてきれいです。青山のUNファーマーズマーケットで買って、この冬ずっと元気です。

How do you have room to grow food on a small balcony? I particularly love edibles that are also super ornamental. This lettuce looks and tastes great! It’s from the United Nations University farmers market stall that specializes in heirloom vegetables. It’s been easy to grow during winter.

Blueberry bush with fruit for sale at Marunouchi flower shop

丸の内の花屋さんは、ブルーベリーの実のついた素敵な木を売っています。食用の植物は目を楽しませてくれます。

This gorgeous blueberry plant, full of perfect fruits, is being sold at Marunouchi flower shop. I love how it’s getting more common to use edibles as decorative landscape.

Yamamomo tree near Tokyo Metropolitan Government building

ヤマモモというフルーツの味はどんなでしょうか。このきれいな実のなる木はよく公園と道路で育っています。

Commonly called Japanese bayberry, this fruit tree near Tokyo Metropolitan Government was full of yamamomo fruits. This tree is apparently often planted along roads and in parks. I love how the fruit is at once edible and very ornamental.

Eggplant flowers break the dichotomy between edible and decorative

ベランダの植物に、食用と装飾との違いはありません。ナスの花がきれいです。この写真の中に、イチゴ、キュウリ、ブルーベリー、ロズーマリー、パセリが見えます。さらに、今年、オクラを育てています。花がきれいで、僕はオクラが嫌いですが、相方が大好きです。

There’s no contradiction between edible and decorative garden plants, especially on a small balcony. I love these purple and yellow eggplant flowers. Also in the frame are strawberries, cucumber, blueberries, rosemary, and parsley. This year I’m also growing okra, which I don’t like to eat. It’s a beautiful plant, and my husband will eat them.

Blueberry flowers make me think of summer fruit on balcony

今、ブルーベーリが東京のベランダで咲いています。ブルーベーリは観賞植物でも食用でもあります。花は夏にできるフルーツを想像させます。

Blueberries are blooming on my Tokyo balcony garden. I love how this bush is both decorative and edible. But mostly these flowers make me think of summer fruit.

Snap peas are surprisingly easy to grow in Tokyo winter

スナックエンドウは東京のベランダに育ちやすいです。つるは上に育つので、小さいスペースでも大丈夫ですね。冬に植えて、今食べられます。

I am surprised more people aren’t growing snap peas on Tokyo balconies. Because they’re climbers, they take up very little room. I planted them in winter, and now they are ready to eat!

Highway rest stop cherry blossoms. Unlike US, Japanese rest stops are immaculate.

きれいな桜がサービスステーションにあります。日本のは米国のより全然違います。

I love this elegant cherry tree in bloom at a highway rest stop. In the background, you can see a row of cherry trees lining the highway. I am rarely a car passenger in Japan, but I was my in-laws on a day trip last weekend.

In the United States, highway rest stops have a bad reputation: dirty, few food options, insufficient toilets, and an atmosphere of decrepitude and crime. In Japan, they are immaculate, constantly renovated, over-supplied with clean toilets, food options that rival a large mall, and endless rows of souvenir edible gifts for people you will visit or for friends and family back home.

Quince buds on bare shrub with rotten fruit on ground

カリンのつぼみは真っ赤です。地面に腐った果物が見えます。外国では、カリンは普通、果物がなくて、装飾だけです。

I love the deep blood red of this quince bud. Quince is called カリン (karin) in Japanese. In the background, you can see two chartreuse fruit fallen on the ground. Tokyo quince is not just decorative.

Winter citrus brightens cold days in Tokyo

東京に来たとき、柑橘類の木を見て驚きました。冬に果物が熟成しますが、寒すぎるのではないかと思いました。最初、このハッサクは食べれないと東京の人はみんな言いました。去年カナダ人の友だちが、閉鎖された公立学校の庭でハッサクを収穫して、商店街の人たちと一緒にマーマレードを作りました。装飾にも食用にもなります。

Freezing temperatures and icy streets are keeping me indoors. But I am always amazed at how much still grows in Tokyo’s winter months. The most spectacular and surprising is this large citrus called “hassaku.”

For years I believed general comments about how the fruit is too sour to eat. Then I participated last year in Edoble’s hassaku marmalade-making. This tree can be seen everywhere in Tokyo, so it must be well suited. I like how it’s both decorative and edible!

More unknown fruit

この果物も早く現れて、すぐに消えました。この低い木は刺が多いです。リンゴみたいです。食べられるかどうかと思っています。

These fruit, too, also quickly appeared and then they were gone. The short tree is extremely thorny, and the fruit look like apples. I wonder if they are edible.

Thanks to Janet at Suiseki Art for the help with yesterday’s Chinese quince or “karin” in Japanese.

Sidewalk bitter melons in two buckets and plastic twine

I first saw these vines a month ago on a nearby sidewalk. They are growing in plastic buckets with an elaborate plastic twine trellis supported by a tree branch. Initially I misidentified them as morning glory. Recently, I saw how tall and thick the vines had become, and that they are in fact bitter melon, with vegetables ready to eat. The shop owner saw me taking these photos, and seemed very proud of his summer edible garden on a busy street.

Empty lots are abundant and under-used

Tokyo is full of empty lots that mark the time between demolition and building. Sometimes they stay empty for more than a year. Most are turned into automated parking lots, some so small they only provide space for a single car. Some in busier neighborhoods get covered in gravel and host crepe shops in a trailer.

The empty lot above, just off Omotesando in Aoyama has three uses: tapioca drinks for sale, vending machines, and ashtrays for smokers. Considering the proximity to so much high-end shopping and so many people, it seems like a vastly under-utilized urban space.

It would be cool to see something more useful in these temporary spaces: energy generators, plants for shade and habitat, edible gardens, nurseries to grow and sell plants, attractive places for relaxation, socializing, and pets. Their design would need to be portable, modular, and generate some minimal income for the owner. Creating a prototype space for these liminal spaces would be a great project for a local government, corporation, or non-traditional marketing company.

Benefits of corporate gardens

Great New York Times story about benefits of corporate gardens, including Pepsi-Co and Aveda. Improves worker morale, eating, health, and informal conversation across departments. Why doesn’t every company create a small edible garden? By adding native plants to storefronts and walls, and giving small plants to customers, corporations can brand themselves and create distributed habitat, too.