By the season

I’ve been quiet for the past few weeks because we have been traveling in Japan, where the seasons are noted and celebrated in daily life and the food people eat.

It was spring when we arrived in Japan and that means one thing, even to non-Japanese, it was cherry-blossom time (in Japanese, sakura).

Sakura, (cherry blossom) at the Kouzu Shrine, Osaka, Japan
Sakura, (cherry blossom) at the Kouzu Shrine, Osaka, Japan

On our first morning, following breakfast in a local coffee shop, we found that we were just across the road from the Kuromon Market. Oh for something of this quality in Canberra.

In the Kuromon market,  in just one of the seafood aisles, near Dotombori, Osaka.
In the local market, in the seafood aisles, near Dotombori, Osaka.

A morning walk down the stalls took us past tempting displays of seafood,

A large tuna was attracting plenty of browsers to this shop.
A large tuna was attracting plenty of browsers to this shop.

and other displays that we were rather less enthusiastic about.

Show some respect, the potentially deadly fugu fish.
Show some respect, the potentially deadly fugu fish.

This led us to the fruit and vegetable section of the market. It turned out that strawberries were in season. It is not unusual to see stalls in Japanese markets that have such large displays of a single item of produce in season.

A stall of strawberries. At the front are boxes of 'white' strawberries.
A stall of strawberries. At the front are boxes of ‘white’ strawberries.

The more expensive fruit was individually wrapped.

Individual strawberries. Asking price, roughly $A3 each! Not to mention the recently introduced, additional 8% sales tax
Individual strawberries. Asking price, roughly $A3 each!

To celebrate the spring season there were also stalls selling sakura mochi, a pink-tinted rice ball around a centre of red-bean paste and wrapped in a pickled cherry leaf.

Sakura mochi, riceball, Osaka.
Sakura mochi, riceball, Osaka.

They made for a tasty mid-morning snack while we travelled by train into the countryside, looking for cherry blossom as we went

Sakura seen from the train.
Sakura seen from the train.

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Feeling your beans

I have done some weird stuff since I started growing my own veggies, but fondling bean pods never came into the picture before now.

I wrote earlier this year about the beans I was growing, commenting on the edibility, or not of the pods. I was not very charitable about the Lazy Housewife bean, but she now has definitely come into her own.

Lazy Housewife Beans on the drying racks. Top, dried and bottom, freshly picked.
Lazy Housewife Beans on the drying racks. Top, dried and bottom, freshly picked.

Once I decided to use the beans for drying it all started to make sense. The Lazy Housewife bean rapidly goes to pod, but looks can be deceiving. I started picking quite a few apparently full pods only to find that the beans inside were very small. So now, before I pick anything I sidle up to the pods and give them a good feel. That way I at least know that there is a decent sized bean inside.