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Japanese Vegetables on American Soil

Fine Cooking Issue 80
Photos: Amy Albert
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While shopping at a Japanese market in New York City in the early 1980s, Ken Suzuki was surprised by the run-of-the-mill quality of the produce—in spite of sky-scraping prices. With an extensive background in farming, he knew he could do better. More important, he saw an opportunity to realize a lifelong dream: having a farm of his own.

What brought Ken to the United States in the mid 1970s was his unusual training as a “chick sexer,” the highly specialized profession of identifying the gender of just-hatched chicks. But when new methods for gender identification gained ground, things got tough, and Ken decided to make his foray into hand-farmed Japanese produce.

On his small Suzuki Farm near Delmar in Delaware (he recently moved the farm from Maryland’s eastern shore), he grows a variety of Japanese greens and vegetables, from shiso leaves, mizuna greens, and minuscule menegi green onions—favored by Japanese chefs to season sushi—to Japanese eggplant, mild and sweet shishito peppers, and yuzu, a tart citrus fruit.

Ken likes to slice shiso leaves, whose flavor is a unique combination of minty and nutty, and toss them in salads or with soba noodles. He roasts shishito peppers with a little olive oil and seasons them with soy sauce and cracked black pepper, and cooks kabocha squash just like butternut: halved or cut into chunks and roasted.

Through the years, Ken has developed a following among chefs and markets in Washington, Philadelphia, and New York, who cherish his flavorful, carefully tended vegetables—many of which are organic.

For more information, call the farm at 302-846-0283.

Kabocha squash.
Mizuna greens.
Menegi green onions.
Shiso leaves.


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