The Waiting Game: Growing a Taste of Japan in Michigan

Many of our readers are familiar with our East Lansing-based Fiscal Officer, Kitty Douglass-Harris. You’ve probably chatted with her about your financial aid or visa application before going to JCMU. But few know that Kitty is an avid gardener and home cook with a penchant for Japanese cuisine! In part 2 of this blog series, Kitty updates us on how the garden is going – or is waiting, as it were.


Hello friends! Patrick asked me if there were any updates on my Japanese vegetable garden project since my first blog post back on April 14th. I’m sad to say that Mother Nature has proven to be very fickle this year, which has made gardening more challenging than usual.

My seed sourcing for my garden has come along fairly well – through a host of local garden centers, hardware stores, and other locations, I’ve been able to find seeds for a number of Asian vegetable varieties. I even learned that my local Asian market carries seed packets! My current collection includes seeds for Japanese eggplant, daikon radish, green onions, long small-seeded Asian cucumbers, and greens such as mizuna (ミズナ(水菜) (Brassica juncea var. japonica) and komatsuna (コマツナ(小松菜, Brassica rapa var. perviridis), shown below.

Though some vegetables remain elusive, I’ve been very pleased with what I have been able to find locally. I’m also growing some typical European and American vegetables, such as carrots and tomatoes, which can also be used in Japanese dishes. Carrot and daikon pickles, anyone?

With my seed collection growing, I began to plan out my garden and prepare to work the soil… only to be quickly shut down by weeks of chilly, wet weather. My garden plot in the backyard has been a swamp, with soil so water-logged that I haven’t dared to lay down even hardy seeds for fear they would rot. Even though it’s early May, we’ve been experiencing nightly frosts and temperatures that barely reach above freezing even when the sun comes up. Brrr, 寒 (cold)!

The forecasts for the weeks ahead are thankfully looking much brighter and warmer. Stay tuned for further updates!

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