Another important crop in Yomitan is the purple sweet potato (紅いも beni imo?), if not for its value as a cash crop then as part of the local culture and tourist industry; the town promotes itself as the “beni imo hometown” (紅いもの里 beni imo no sato?), and holds a Miss Beni Imo (紅いも娘 beni imo musume?)contest each year. Sweet potato cultivation first reached Japan via Okinawa from present-day Taiwan, predating rice cultivation, and either Yomitan or neighboring Kadena can lay claim as the first cultivators of sweet potato in Japan.
So where I live the vegetable de rigeur is beni imo. I have a vegetable plot ergo I have to grow it.
However when I go to plant store, garden center sorts of place and say “Beni Imo kudesai hai!” People look at me with the all too familiar we-would-love-to-help- but-there-is-a-profound-misconception-here look. So no beni imo plants or seeds or whatever it takes to plant in my little garden.
This morning I am on the road to the plot by 6:30. It gets light about 5:15 and hot about 7:30. I strap my fork and rake over my back along with trusty Google bag. Not far from home I spy a gentleman in a beautifully prepared field laying out cuttings.
“Beni Imo?” I query. “Hai!!” says he and, understanding immediately my predicament, hands me an armful of cuttings.
Pleased, I progress to plot and plant. Alas I have no dibber but find in my bag a C whistle that I have had since 1978. It does very well.
I have no great hopes for my beni imo plants as I think you should really plant them in raised drills (see photo above). I am too idle and it is far too hot even at 8:00 to do the work.
I also plant beans, carrots and massive white radish called Daikon.
Stay tuned for horticultural updates. I cycle home with sweat staining the road as I pass by.