Mochi (sticky-chewy confections made of pounded rice) is traditional fare for Japanese New Year, which coincides with the American New Year. Every New Year morning I make zenzai (mochi floating in bowls of sweetened azuki beans) for my family. Then, we head off to our family friends' house for more wonderful fare: sushi, nishime, onigiri, and the traditional New Year ozoni (mochi and other things simmered in seaweed/fish broth). All these dishes are supposed to bring good luck to the coming year.
Here, I'd like to share with you a Japanese recipe that jives well with my kind of New Year. This recipe does not go after luck, however. It goes after transformation. Yes, friends, tsuchi-dango ("earth-dumplings") are little tools you can use to personally and directly effect change in the world, from the roots up.
The use of tsuchi-dango was an ancient farming technique before it was revived in the twentieth century by Masanobu Fukuoka. These little balls of clay, soil, and seeds already contain everything needed for healthy germination; just add water. You can strew them on top of untilled soil, the seeds wait for prime germinating conditions, and the sprouts grow healthily and robustly in their rooting medium until they are well-established in the ground. What a revolutionary farming technique!
But tsuchi-dango can be used for much more. Think of the possibilities: when these little balls of clay and soil are filled with the seeds of edible or native plants, every vacant lot, urban nook, or suburban crack can become a radiant garden. Arm yourself with some of these, and you can transform your world. You'll have a green touch.
2 parts seeds
3 parts compost
5 parts powdered red or brown clay (available from pottery supply stores)
Mix together. Add water until it forms a "dough" that you can roll into little balls the size of large marbles (about 1 inch in diameter). Allow to dry for a day or two. Fling about with wild abandon, or store someplace cool and dry. I've also seen a recipe that calls for equal parts of each--seeds, compost, clay--although I'm not sure how well that works.
Tailor the seeds you use according to your vision and your area: tomatoes, rosemary, white sage, blue flax, fennel, prairie-dock, sunflowers, peppers, peas. Be bold, audacious, and utopian: imagine the side of that parking lot as a butterfly garden of native sages or that chain-link fence overflowing with delicious stringbeans. Take direct and concrete initiatives of transformation: anarchy in action.