Japanese herbs and vegetables

kiwiblossom(Japan)August 28, 2004

I teach horticulture students at a Japanese university, and I'd like to collect any questions that you have on growing Japanese herbs or vegetables. I'll use the questions in class assignments, and post replies here, but the process will take several months (our semester doesn't begin until October). With luck, we may be able to develop an English site with information on Japanese plants, but that's a while off yet!

...so, ask away!

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Shantihhh(9b CA)

How to grow wasabi, the real stuff.


    Bookmark   August 28, 2004 at 6:02PM
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meixue(10 CA, Bay Area)

Can Burdock (gobo) be grown in containers? What is the best way to propogate Shiso from root cuttings. Is there a best time to take cuttings from the Shiso plant (after flowering, before flowering, summer, winter?) in order to root and propogate a new plant from the rootings? I has success with a cutting from about two months ago taken before the plant flowered but the cutting taken during the flowering process wont root. Is there a good website where japanese plant seeds (for edible plants) can be bought. I hear Japanese suppliers have a better quality product. Thanks

    Bookmark   August 30, 2004 at 12:14PM
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npthaskell(coastal oregon)

Sakata seeds (below) may be bought from
Johnny's seeds even has Sakata seeds that are no longer featured on their website (eg., Summer Fest Komatsuna)

Here is a link that might be useful: Sakata Vegetable Seeds

    Bookmark   August 30, 2004 at 8:44PM
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Thanks all for all queries on the board or by PM, keep 'em coming!

Also thanks for the info on Japanese seeds in the US, that is unfortunately not something I can help with.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2004 at 9:13PM
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ChouCream(7B BC [PNW])


I was wondering if you had any more links to pictures or information on cultivation methods and crops cultivars grown in Japan. Something along the lines of what you posted in the Yubari melon thread would be great. I am especially interested in the cultivation methods and cultivars of Tomatoes, Eggplants, Melons, Squash, Fresh Eating beans, sweet potato, Fruits, yasai but any vegetable would be fine.


    Bookmark   September 19, 2004 at 1:43PM
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Can anyone advise on the taste and uses for Kailaan?

    Bookmark   September 21, 2004 at 8:29AM
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This is in the cabbage family, not sweet and not bitter. One of the favorites in that family in Asian cuisine.

Recipes for you.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2004 at 2:27PM
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ladyjenny(Z9a TX Houston)

kiwiblossom: here is one for you
How to grow Ashitaba? Any seed source available?

    Bookmark   September 22, 2004 at 9:38AM
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Thanks for all your queries...I'll be meeting this semester's students this week (though I know most of them already, and we discussed this idea earlier in the year). I'll be assigning questions and they'll start working on their replies...let me know if you have any more questions.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2004 at 9:06AM
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Gai Laan (often spelled Kai Laan, and called Chinese Broccoli and Chinese Sprouting Broccoli, among other attempts to create a European name) is one of our favorite vegetables and I'd guess would grow very well in Ireland --once you work out the proper season! It is a winter crop here, and gets tough and bolts when the days are lengthening AND the temperature gets into the 100s (F) --not likely to be an Irish problem. California has a wonderful Asian seed source, EvergreenYH (http://www.evergreenseeds.com/), which carries several varieties in nice large packets. The difference between the varieties didn't seem to be very great --they all produced well, they all tasted good, and they all began to make flowering stalks at about the same time when planted in early September.

The flowering stalks are the part Kailaan is grown for commercially, but the leafy thinnings are delicious also. The stalks are quite long, with a shiny outside skin and very sweet, succulent interior. When they grow fairly slowly (cool weather?) they are thicker; as the weather warms the outside skin becomes fibrous --but it's very easy to peel.

My suggestion would be to plant in spring, and if the Kailaan bolts quickly, with tough skinny stems, try another planting in midsummer, or perhaps even May, so the main growth time is when days are shortening. It will take some frost --if you can protect it you could try a fall planting, though it's a bit late now, I'd think.

The dark green leaves and loosely clustered flower buds (only a few per cluster) add a different texture and flavor to the stalks. We like our Kailaan more or less braised --started with a very quick toss in a little oil, to coat the stalks lightly, finished under cover with a little water or chicken broth, then dressed at serving time with a few drops of soy sauce. It is very good steamed, too.

Another vegetable you might like to try is Komatsuna. Same season, but mine seemed less sensitive to day length. Komatsuna has very large, shiny dark green leaves with a sweet, succulent midrib. It is a brassica but not like any other I've grown. The leaves are smooth and thin, not like a cabbage or a mustard, and the flavor is not very mustardy. Just a few plants fed us two or three meals a week for months --two or three leaves made a dish for the two of us, and you can pick from the same plant again and again. Eventually the ribs started to get tough, so I stripped the leafy part, and when it began to bolt the flower stalks were very good too, and produced for quite a long time. The bases of the flower stalks needed peeling eventually --very easy, like kailaan, no trying to peel between knots and branches as when peeling broccoli stems.

We have fond memories of Ireland and the great root vegetables the landladies at the farmhouse inns served. It was spring --around Easter-- and possibly just what was left by that time.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2004 at 3:23PM
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How about, growing gobo in raised beds? This is something I wondered about, as my yard does not have good drainage (read: clay mud with the consistency of wet mozzarella cheese). It seems like it would make the long root easier to get at, too. I'm about to build an all-purpose raised bed for daikon, maybe for potatoes too, interested in any insights anyone can share.

Oh also, in 2000 I serendipitously came into some seeds for sansho / Zanthoxylum piperitum. They overwintered and germinated beautifully. However, all seven or so tiny plants succumbed to some sort of unstoppable ailment. I believe it may have had something to do with the soil (which no, I did not keep overmoist) or with an extreme sensitivity to being transplanted. Does sansho have any special problems with being transplanted, any special requirements like mycorrhizal fungi (I thought that since it's related to citrus it might need a similar soil organism), or any special deadly enemies, common pathogens? Any soil components or environmental conditions it is especially sensitive to? I can't tell you how bummed I am to have lost these plants, despite all manner of desperate attempts to save the day.

Best - exop

    Bookmark   November 5, 2004 at 8:41PM
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Robinjw13(z9 Sussex UK)

Hi Kiwiblossom your students will doubtless already have their work cut-out now for this term but here's a couple of more unusual questions that are also very relevant to world agronomics:

First, I've read that rice is cultivated as far north as 52 degrees latitude. What varieties are cultivated this far north and would they grow and be harvestable in the south of England?

Second, Soybean is widely farmed as a fodder crop. Do these varieties differ from those grown for the edible bean? I am looking for a Soybean variety that can be grown for the bean here in England.

Thanks & let me know if I can give help on conditions here.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2004 at 5:44PM
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doubly(USDA 9 / Sunset16)

I don't know if this applies to all Sakata seeds sold by Johnny's Select Seeds, but I contacted Johnny's about getting Sakata's Ashitaba seeds. They said that it would be a special order with a $250 minimum.

I ended up ordering two packets from Horizon Herbs (20 seeds each) at just under $10 per packet.

Here is a link that might be useful: Horizon Herbs - Asitaba seeds

    Bookmark   August 31, 2010 at 5:21PM
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deebo82(8 Puget Sound/WA)

Kitazawa seed company also has a wide and excellent variety of Japanese and Asian vegetable and herb seeds. They are based in the Bay Area, and distribute their seeds to Asian markets as far north as Seattle.

Here is a link that might be useful: Kitazawa Seed Company

    Bookmark   September 13, 2010 at 11:24PM
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Just wanted to comment, I've ordered from Kitizawa a couple of times, had great customer service, very prompt shipping, and excellent germination and results with their seeds. Love them, great company.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 10:29AM
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I would like to learn more about growing Ashitaba plant in Houston, Texas. I would greatly appreciate any advice or suggestions. Thank you.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 3:38PM
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yukkuri_kame(Sunset 19 / USDA 9)

Cool thread.

I am waiting for my myoga to come up. Hope it survived winter.

Looks like shiso has germinated. I was hoping it would naturalize, but probably a bit dry here in SoCal for that.

I'm also trying mitsuba for the first time. Not so easy to germinate! Any tips appreciated.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2013 at 3:27AM
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Can I grow ashitaba plat from branch cuttings? I will greatly appreciate any advice. Thank you most kindly

    Bookmark   March 16, 2013 at 12:47PM
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yukkuri_kame(Sunset 19 / USDA 9)

Seems like the knowledgeable folks abandoned this thread years ago. Ain't nobody here but us chickens...

This post was edited by yukkuri_kame on Sat, Mar 16, 13 at 21:11

    Bookmark   March 16, 2013 at 5:51PM
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