After the fire brigade opening festivities, I visited a friend who runs a great little “Farm Inn” – basically a regular house that is liscened to accept payment for room and board, but it is not on the same level as a Minshuku or Ryokan inn, which have much stricter regulations for kitchen and customer sleeping areas, etc. The system is to encourage tourism and cash flow to rural areas where the cost and general pain-in-the-buttness of trying to open a full-on inn is stifling.
Anyway, this is one of the best places to stay in the area – simple, cozy, and down to earth. I hate visiting though, because the land and house is everything I ever dreamed of having, and I can’t help comparing it to the tiny little boring plot of concrete we currently live on.
I plan to go back very soon, while the spring is still in progress, to spend a few hours photographing the surroundings in more detail, but for now I share the kogomi fiddle-head ferns that have started to poke up around his ponds. Given the two warm days in a row we had here, I am sure there are plenty coming up along the river behind our house, so today I will make some time to walk there with Mona.
There are several fern varieties that are regularly foraged in Japan, but this is my favorite simply because it is the easiest to eat – requiring no special treatment to remove the astringents such as zenmai or warabi. You can just pick the tender shoots and eat them raw, or better yet, boil it up and eat with sesame paste or oil. Cooking it with the rice is great too for a nice springy-looking steaming bowl of rice.
We will pick way more than can be eaten fresh though, so many of them will be dried, pickled, jarred, or misoed to preserve them for the long green-less winter.
Maybe Tomoe can put some into her soon-to-be famous Natural Yeast Whole-Grain Brown Rice bread. She has a small chain of shops in Tokyo that wants to sell it, as well as places here interested in selling goods made with local ingredients – and this is made with our and our neighbors rice. Her only obstacle now will be finding a way to bake enough to fill demand, as it is already a larger scale than she initially planned on starting out on, and she has also had some other big non-planned projects fall into her lap.
Luckily the village processing plant, which is extremely underutilized and available for any citizens of the village for a crazy-small fee, has state of the art equipment and two huge ovens that can bake as much as she can kneed.
Here you can see the first use of what may be the trademark image for all of Tomoe’s products – Mona’s Itadakimasu face.