When in Okinawa, Get a Pedi (pt2)

“You should get a fish this time.”
“They have a lot if designs but I doubt they have a fish.”
“Oh, they’ll have a fish!”
“I want flowers, you wouldn’t actually want me to get a fish!”
“Will you get a fish? For me?”
“Okay, if they have a fish, I will get a fish for you!”
“Cool”
-Dialogue between Brian and Marissa

Why is it such a big deal to get a pedicure in Okinawa?

After spending half of my chair time at Cocok trying to decide which pretty floral design I wanted…my eyes finally found a fish. “Ok, It’ll make my husband smile,” I thought to myself.

I still got a beautiful hibiscus design on each and every other toe with a butterfly on one big toe and a little Coy fish on the other. The original model for the fish was in an entirely different color scheme but I just simply asked my artist if she could match the color scheme. She did a beautiful job!

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And that is why you should get a Pedicure in Okinawa!

How I Wound up EATING Flowers

YOU DO NOT LIKE THEM. SO YOU SAY.
TRY THEM! TRY THEM! AND YOU MAY.
TRY THEM AND YOU MAY, I SAY.

SAM! IF YOU LET ME BE,
I WILL TRY THEM. YOU WILL SEE.

Dr. Seuss “Green Eggs and Ham”

It has been a busy week to say the least and I’ve been waiting anxiously to tell you about my most recent Farmer’s Market Finds. You know by now that every visit I will find something purple to place in the basket. Here it is:

DSC03234 Some of you know this fruit already but for those of you who don’t–it’s a Dragon Fruit. Dragon Fruit may be this hot pink hue (okay, it’s close to purple), others may be a sunny yellow, and usually the fruit inside is even more vibrant than the outer skin. Some even have greyish fruit. Here’s what mine looked like:

DSC03236 I think it’s purple.

So here is something interesting about the Dragon Fruit; it doesn’t originate in Asia. It is actually a South American Cactus-like plant that was at some point imported to Asia and is now very popular in all the Asian Countries as well as Israel. I first saw this fruit on my friend Jessa’s blog www.shalomsweethome.com .

To eat, cut it in half and scoop out the center with a spoon the way you would a Kiwi. It is delicious. It doesn’t taste exactly like a Kiwi but the fruit flavor and texture is strikingly similar and you get to eat more of it (my favorite part). Another one of my favorite bloggers features a recipe using the Dragon Fruit here: http://naturallydiy.com/2013/07/16/dragon-fruit-salad/

As I was so intrigued by this fruit at the market and eager to give it a taste, I also found this item in the same bin:

20130721-113800.jpg Was it a dragon fruit relative? Was it another fruit entirely? Was it a vegetable? Would I eat it here or there? Would I eat it anywhere?

I pried it open to see what was inside.

20130721-113819.jpg It appeared to be a flower. Could I, Would I, Should I eat this thing?

I made a hypothesis that it could be a Dragon Fruit Flower. I wasn’t sure if it was or what parts were edible and this concerned me. I googled and oogled. It seemed like it could be a Dragon Fruit Flower but I didn’t find many pictures of the flower bud from the outside or in this state. I couldn’t find credible sources. One of my blogger friends (www.naturallydiy.com) helped me out with her research and sent me a picture of a dragon fruit flower she saw at a botanical garden. So now that I had narrowed down what this was, I needed to find out how to use it.

The most information I could find in English about preparing it was on the website http://okinawaislandproduce.com/. There are two to three options for preparing this vegetable. The bud itself can be cooked as a vegetable such as in boiling water or a broth. The flower can be fried, sautéed or steeped as a tea. I used the two recipes from the site. The boiled vegetable went into a chicken broth for a soup and the sautéed flower was cooked with soy sauce and chili peppers. The sautéed flower was the one I liked better–to me it tasted like a mild cheese.

Here is what it looked like:

DSC03239 Cut up flower bud for cooking as a vegetable.

DSC03240Isolated flower ready for sautéing.

DSC03241 Into the skillet. DSC03242 It looks lovely browned. DSC03243I forgot to take a picture of it on my plate. I am sorry. I actually liked it though. DSC03244 Here is what it looked like after being boiled as a vegetable. The flavor is mild-it actually had very little flavor to me.

DSC03245Here it is in my soup with some purple okra!

The next day, I attended a local botanical garden with my husband and saw for myself what this mysterious Dragon Fruit Plant looked like.

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So now you know how I wound up eating flowers.

I DO! I LIKE THEM, SAM-I-AM!

AND I WILL EAT THEM HERE AND THERE.
SAY! I WILL EAT THEM ANYWHERE!

-Dr. Seuss “Green Eggs and Ham”

Another Purple Food Experience

I can’t do nothing just a little.
Dolly Parton

Well today is Sunday and that usually means one thing. I take that back; it means two things. Number one, I went to church. Number two, I stopped at the Farmer’s Market on the way home!

In a previous post entitled “When in Okinawa, Try Purple Food” I told you about how purple treats catch my eye with every Market Visit. Truthfully, it’s not just about the color purple; it’s about my love for Heirloom Gardening. I love how tomatoes not only come in red; in fact heirloom tomatoes can be orange, yellow, purple, pink, and even white. I’m obsessed with my Baker’s Creek Heirloom Seed Catalogue. I try new types of produce everywhere we go and do my best to save seeds so that I can grow my own varieties. There is just something gratifying about being able to grow something you can’t buy at a standard grocery store. I also enjoy cooking a colorful array of produce in my meals.

So here is what I picked up at the Market today:

DSC03226 PURPLE OKRA – as promised I will find something purple with every visit! I also grabbed a bag of bell peppers, a tiny orange pineapple, two overpriced mangos, and some original Okinawan Limes called shikuwasa.

DSC03223 Here is the okra from my plant next to the bag of okra I bought today. Still recovering from a cold, I had plenty of chicken soup and decided I could use a portion of my leftovers to make chicken gumbo.

DSC03225 DSC03224 I got right to work cutting the okra pods for my soup and setting aside seeds to save for later. The different colorations of the seeds in each pod made me curious. Was there something wrong with the black seeds or was it just a different okra variety? I did some research and learned today that some seeds just do that when they mature. The green okra from my plant had actually been left on the plant too long and therefore was too mature making it tough to eat. I now know for the future that okra is meant to be picked early (lesson learned).

Notice the purple okra is greenish on the inside but purple on the outside? As I cooked it in the soup it became increasingly green all around. They were less slimy than your average okra and I do think this variety is a keeper.

DSC03228 You can’t forget to add Cayenne to your Cajun Gumbo ya know? Sauce se Blanc! Let the Good Times Roll (and please let my remaining chest cold roll out with this spicy tonic)!

DSC03227 I then cut shikuwasa into halves and added some fresh lime juice into the gumbo as well as in a cup for my tea. I was able to then enjoy a yummy mango-lime tea sweetened lightly with a dash of honey (Yum-o). The shikuwasa have a strong scent but a rich flavor! I saved many seeds from these new fruits as well, but that’s another post.

Here’s to trying more purple food and other good stuff!

Marissa

When in Okinawa, Try Purple Food

You’ll  never do a whole lot unless you’re brave enough to try.
Dolly  Parton

Most people who have come to Okinawa probably know about the Purple Sweet Potato (Beni-imo) that grows prolifically here. (See article: http://www.downtoearth.org/health/nutrition/okinawan-sweet-potato-purple-powerhouse-nutrition for more information) I have noticed the dominance of the color purple with every visit I make to local food market or gift shop. Gazing at a plethora of purple snack foods, I have always been curious as to what they might taste like.

I made a trip within the last week to the farmer’s market and wanted to pick out a few new things to try and I decided that there should be at least one purple item in my cart every time I go shopping. The Beni-imo could be a post alone, but I wanted to try some Beni-imo snacks along with other fresh produce.

It’s hard to tell by this picture but this little pineapple had a very purplish hue to it. The inside was yellow like any other pineapple I’ve seen and it was delicious.
pineapple

Here were the purple snacks I chose. At first glance I was sure one was a cookie. Upon closer inspection it looked more like cake.DSC03143

The bag appeared to have candy-covered peanuts which would be one of my favorite snack foods. If you look closely at the label you’ll find a small caricature that looks like a sweet potato man complete with arms and legs. So in theory these were in fact sweet potato covered peanuts. The lightly sweet crunchy coating complimented the savory peanuts well. DSC03146

I then tasted the “cake”. As I picked it up out of the container it sunk a little into my thumb revealing a central layer. It turned out to be a sandwich pastry of some sort.

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My first bite revealed a fruity jam layer in the center that no doubt tasted like sweet potato. The gooey, spongy pastry was not what I expected. I’m still not sure what it is; the best I can say is that it is a Wagashi, but there are many different types of Wagashi. It tasted okay, but it was so chewy I had to stop. My mouth got tired.

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Next I tried a curious fruit that was of great interest to me. Its papery outer shell and round fruit looked just like a tomatillo only this was orange and a little smaller. I knew I had seen something in a book about tomatillos being relative to an Asian Lantern fruit of some kind so I started researching on the internet. My search led me to believe that this fruit goes by a few names such as Chinese Ground Cherry, Cape Gooseberry, and Orange Tomatillo.

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The inside of the fruit had an identical texture to the tomatillo, was a little sweeter and tangier, and had the similar citrusy taste and smell. I was convinced it was a closer relative to a tomatillo than a tomato and wondered how it would taste in salsa–not that I found out because I’ve already eaten them all (after saving some seeds!).

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This, I was certain would be a small melon. I was very interested in a small melon because I knew I would be attempting to eat it by myself. Cutting it open I found the flesh to be pale.

DSC03139DSC03154 

My taste test gave me yet another unexpected surprise for the day. It tasted exactly like a cucumber. There was nothing sweet or melon-like about it. I do like cucumber, but I didn’t think I could eat that much cucumber. I placed the remaining portions into a container in the fridge.

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I was very excited to try this tiny squash since I’m the only one in our house that really eats it. It had this little protective bottom cover and looked adorable. Then I took it home and discovered something on the bottom.

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Ewww, how disappointing right?  This led me to cutting almost half of my already tiny squash to throw away. Well, the top half was yummy. Note to self and my readers: always look on the bottom of the produce before buying!

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There is nothing mysterious about these tomatoes; I’m just grateful I can buy them locally.

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To finish out my taste testing session, it was time to make a brew of authentic Japanese loose leaf tea. Word of caution: Japanese Tea is STRONG even for tea enthusiasts like myself. I have been wanting to try more teas for a long time but as usual I’m intimidated by the selection. Usually all of the labels are in kanji and I don’t know what the name of the teas are or what they contain. This one had the name Ryukyu Ouki Tea which is an indication that it’s Okinawan. I don’t know if Healthy Communication is a brand or what the tea is suppose to promote.

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With some locally grown honey and my Japanese Tea Set I was good to go. As suspected, it was a strong hearty green tea and the honey complimented it well.

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Expect more taste testing in future posts and don’t let me forget to always add something purple to my cart!

When In Okinawa, Get a Pedicure

There are moments to indulge and enjoy, but I always know when it’s time to go home and wash my knickers.

-Kate Winslet

I was going to quote another actress who once said, “it is good to indulge now and again,” but I thought Kate’s words were far better!

Here is a confession: I have never gotten a Pedicure, until today. Sure, I have painted my own toes, used nail buffers, foot scrubs, and peppermint lotion like many homemade pedicures can include; but I never indulged in a professional Pedi. I could do it myself and had no reason to justify spoiling myself.

Then I moved to Okinawa and witnessed first hand the beauty of toe art. All over the island women sported toe nails as Devine accessories the way gals sport handbags and shoes in the states. I never thought I would ever be a fan of busy toe paint until I saw the “Monets” that graced pretty little American and Japanese toes alike all around me. It didn’t take long for me to decide to indulge in this little luxury (which would cost much more in the states I might add).

What did I have to lose? Now that I’m not at a teaching job stateside, or in college, I hardly ever eat out, have not been feeding a Starbucks addiction, don’t have to pay PTO to wear jeans, don’t have to “donate” money to our team party fund, have not been to the movies, or feel obligated to buy donuts for Friday. I feel no guilt indulging in a Pedicure at long last. So Kaity and I (remember my partner in crime who took me to Yoho?) got our toes done.

“What on earth does this have to do with gardening?” you might ask… Take a look:

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Each toe nail is painted with white flowers that are tinged with hints of orange and deep green leaves swirling around over a bright green background. Yes, I have garden toes.

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Now that I have had this fun, I’m going to do some laundry; or as Kate says, “wash my knickers!” Perhaps I will put on a Kate Winslet movie while I’m at it. More garden news to come later.

Keep on blooming,
Marissa