The first year I was in Japan I lived in a small town called Sukagawa in Fukushima.
It’s famous for its peonies.
I’ll never forget the care the people that ran the Botan-en took over their blooms.
Many of them had paper parasols shading them from the harsh summer sun.
That’s true of most gardeners and farmers in Japan – they take great pride in and care of their produce.
In fact a lot of fruit is grown inside individual paper bags as an organic method of protecting it from pests.
I’m not sure they did it with cucumbers but Sukagawa did have an annual festival to celebrate the vegetable.
I used to find that funny when I was living there in the early 1990’s.
This year I’ve grown cucumbers for the first time – and I’m savouring every mouthful of the crunchy light vegetable.
It brought back wonderful memories of living in Fukushima prefecture – tinged with sadness about what’s happened there since then.
One organic farmer in Sukagawa took his own life after his cabbage crop was irradiated and his home was damaged in the earthquake.
And it’s reminded me how lucky I am to be able to grow my own food and how precarious life can be.
New take on an old favourite
I’ve still maintained my links with Japan and late last month I invited to supper Morita-san, who was visiting from the small mountain town of Nagawa in central Japan.
I was delighted when he told me his favourite vegetable was pickled cucumbers and made my version for him – inspired by this Ottolenghi recipe.
The method isn’t there but it’s pretty easy to imagine how it all goes together!
Top tip is – the thinly sliced red onion is marinated in the dressing for 45 minutes before combining with the thickly sliced cucumber and crushed ginger and garlic.
It goes a gorgeous deep fuschia pink.
And as well as growing my own cucumbers – under glass and outside – the allotment project where I volunteer gave me some of their haul!
Karen, who works there, told me to pickle them in a large jar with one tablespoon of salt topped up with cold water!
No boiling water or sugar – just chop them into large sections (the smaller ones I left whole) and add a few stalks of fresh dill.
I’ll report back next time!
If you try it just make sure you release the lid every now and then as some fermentation will take place and the jar could explode!