Radishes for Adoption
On Mother's Day 2009 I asked about 30 people in Kyoto to adopt 5 radish seeds on my behalf (the story goes that my own house doesn't provide enough sunlight and space to grow any plants). The adopters agreed to grow the radishes at their homes and meet with me once a week to check in on the plants. The radishes are meant to be exhibited as pickles in glass jars and eaten among all adopters in a concluding tasting event later in June.
Radishes for Adoption is an attempt to engage people who don't know each other into something bigger than oneself that is playful and constructive. A small, networked venture that maybe doen't seem plausible at first. Radishes allow us to produce something edible within just five weeks, hence, in Japanese they are called "hatsuka-daikon", the 20-day-radish. Follow the progression of growing food, relationships and commitment through the photos below.
FINAL WEEK: Tasting Radishes and Meeting fellow Growers
While the nightly installation displayed a growing number of pickeled Radishes for two weeks in June 2009 it opened the project up to the public. Even Kyoto Newspaper and Kansai Television got interested in spreading the story of the Adopted Radishes. At the final Tasting Exchange about half the radish adopters and a hungry audience met to swap experiences, compare the pickles, and eat everything up... The reddish vinegar from the pickles was ingeniously reused by radish adopter Kota Arimoto for dying a silk scarf (see last image). — Photos courtesy of Lawrence Kurten
WEEK 6: Maturing Radishes, Harvest and Pickeling
As the purple veggies ripen the Radish for Adoption project moves from the gardening front into the kitchens of the foster parents. We make vinegar pickles and the participants decide what spices and herbs to put into the jar. The radish leaves are usually immediately consumed in the form of a crunchy salad or quick salt pickles with Pontsu sauce. About half the radish growers have the harvesting fun still ahead of them...
WEEK 5: Sprouting leaves, hungry inch worms, maggots & lice...
Finally. Most of the radishes left the twin-leaf state behind and bring out lots of new green and thickening stems. This attracts many critters that are happily munching away on our plants... All adopters are instructed to carefully check each leaf at least once every day for unwanted insects and remove them by hand (the organic way).
WEEK 4: All Stages of Radish Growth in Full Swing
Among my radish growing adopters I encountered the entire spectrum of plant development. From seeds that just had germinated to plants that already started to thicken their stems eager to produce fruit. The weekly meetings proof to be invaluable for emergency gardening support (e.g. prevention of widespread over-watering) to life-expanding, conversational excursions.
WEEK 3: Seeking, Replanting & Pampering of Seedlings
The germination rate of radish is 85% but since the Radish Adopters received just 5 seeds, not everybody is lucky to see all of them sprout. Digging in the soil, accepting fate, replanting new seeds at the least helped grow the dialog between me and the participants.
WEEK 2: Planting Seeds
To ensure best growing conditions it was time to bring the (mostly) germinating seeds into fertile ground. I brought a bag of soil to the homes of all adopters and we arranged a planting with things available on location.
WEEK 1: Finding Radish Adopters
Together with my highly experienced public art team Makiko Hori, Mie Matsuoka and Tagaki-san we signed up Radish Adopters in front of a shopping center and at the river park. As soon as the adopters watered the tissue of the seed package the commitment as plant parent bagan.
A Network of Food Producers in the City
RADISHES FOR ADOPTION is an initiative that supports the playful transition of verandas, backyards, window boxes, rooftops and unused space into tiny organic food production areas.
This program invited 30 very diverse households regardless of age, income, available space, gardening experience or lifestyle. While the Radish Adopters become the primary caretakers, they are getting ongoing support and education from the organizers.
The motivation behind Urban Farmers Japan (UFJ) is to build relationships around local food production, mitigating the environmental impact of our current food system, and reconnect people to the earthy essentials of life.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Currently Japan imports 61% of its food and 70% of the nation's three million farmers are 60 years or older.
(Source: The New York Times; Japan's Rice Farmers Fear Their Future Is Shrinking; March 29, 2009)
C R E D I T S
Radishes for Adoption would have been impossible without the incredible dedication and support of Makiko Hori, Mie Matsuoka, Tagaki-san, and last but not least Yuka Saito. I am also grateful for the open-minded adopters throughout Kyoto (and Osaka) who offer their care and home for my radishes and agreed to meet with me once a week.