You’ve probably got the hint by now that I’m a bit of a fan of Japan and Japanese food. I heard about Namayasai when Mark and I did our udon making class with Yuki from Yuki’s Kitchen. We were discussing how to get hold of particular Japanese vegetables in London and Yuki-san told us about a farm in Sussex that are growing organic Japanese vegetables that you can buy in veg boxes during the summer months.
Based in Lewes, East Sussex, Namayasai grow Japanese vegetables with no pesticides, herbicides or artificial fertilisers and believe in growing beautiful vegetables that are full of flavour, not huge quantities of mass-produced veggies. You can read more about them on their website and get a feel for their ethos. You can even visit them and experience life working on the farm!
You can buy veg boxes from Namayasai during the summers months and they are sent out on a specific day of every month (depending on the area – here’s their calendar) to a designated collection point. There is a minimum number required for each delivery so it’s worth seeing if there’s already a group in your area. I got an email confirming when the boxes were going to be delivered, what was going to be in them, and then I emailed back to confirm and made the payment. Once the boxes are delivered you just organise a time to go and collect them from your collection point.
I was so excited to collect our first veg box and arrange the collection. It actually turned out not to be a box, but a bag with negi sticking out the top wrapped in newspaper. Inside were individual bags with each type of vegetable to keep them fresh and a slip of paper with recommendations of how you could use each of them.
We got a few daikon radishes in our box, which I’ve generally either eaten pickled, grated into tempura dipping sauce, or in a fresh crunchy Japanese salad. Apparently you can also roast them and I’m tempted to see what would happen if you grilled it on a barbecue…
“Tsuruna” or New Zealand spinach
New Zealand spinach is quite a bit thicker than regular spinach and slightly more furry to the touch. It works really well in omelette and stir fry, and I would love to try stirring some into curry as well – yum!
“Mizuna” Japanese mustard greens
These fresh greens are so versatile and can be chopped and added to loads of dishes to bring a mustard hint. They’re great for bringing a good flavour hit to salads and we tried ours chopped up and stirred into pasta with a wild garlic olive oil flavour bomb from this post.
Egoma leaves, also known as “perilla”, are similar in shape to shiso leaves although they have a different taste. They can be used as wraps for Asian dishes as well as in this recipe for marinated egoma leaves.
Negi are somewhere between a spring onion and a leek and as a result are incredibly versatile. You can chop them up like you would use a spring onion to garnish things like salads and miso soup. We chopped ours into inch-long pieces, rubbed them with miso and had them on a barbecue.
Kabu is a Japanese turnip and is often pickled. Pickles are a great palate cleanser or addition to a bento lunch box.
It’s been great fun experimenting with new vegetables and to be part of a local community of Japanese vegetable lovers!
You can find out more about Namayasai on their website at http://www.namayasai.co.uk/
Watch this space for recipes…