Monday, August 4, 2008

Season of Pleasing

Summer is Rockin

For all those keeping track of how things are going with the stand in terms of what we are giving away, let me tell you the last two weeks have been totally exciting. As soon as I got to the garden to set up, my friend Greg came by with the most beautiful arrangement of baby lettuces that her grew in his tiny, somewhat shady garden down the street. Then out of the blue a woman who lives in Bernal Heights showed up with a lot of produce. She grew it in a garden in San Mateo in friend's yard there. She brought a lot of purple string beans, some tomatoes and chili peppers, and a few zucchini. I picked a number of green scarlet runner beans from Treat Commons, a few green beans from my backyard and carrots, and a few zucchini from Treat Commons and the Secret Garden, and a handful of tomatoes from all the gardens I work in. I also continue to grow sprouts and sunflower greens, partly to inspire people to grow them in their own kitchens. The selection looked great so I captured it with these snapshots:

I forgot the woman's name, but she stuck around to help me set up and the display was very summery and impressive. Beth with the yellow plums from last week came again with three bags full (they were very tasty), another woman brought green apples from her three trees (they may have been picked a little early), I brought probably the last of the loquats from the Secret Garden (I had to climb the 14 ft orchard ladder to get them), and small plums from there too, salad mix from the Secret Garden and my backyard, garlic from San Bruno Jail Garden Projects, some beets from the Ferry Building Farmers Market, and kale from my backyard and Treat Commons. We also had a few flowers to share, some sunflowers and bachelor's buttons.

Here is me trying to give away kale at the end of the day. I asked everyone what the name for kale is in Spanish and no one really knew. Vanya suggested I say " como espinaca o acelgas pero mas duro". Maybe there isn't a word in Spanish for kale. Anyway, kale isn't as popular as other vegetables at our stand, but at the end I had only one bunch left. Some people like it and I am thinking of handing out a recipe for my favorite way of cooking it. It is still one of my favorite things to grow.

Plums and a way to cook stone fruit

San Francisco must have a lot of plum trees growing here. They are easy to grow, are low chill (means will grow without a lot of cold winters), and are pest free it seems. I think we need to grow more plums here if we want a lot of fruit, but we need to grow varieties that are tasty. Luther Burbank had it right going with the Japanese plum, and I love his Santa Rosa variety and the Satsuma plum. I have also tasted some other great plums like the Elephant Heart kind. I like the cross between the plum and apricot where the plum is dominate called Pluots. The Dave Wilson hybrid Dandy and Flavor Grenade are fantastic.

Here is my plum story for the week. I have been picking these small cherry size plums in the Secret Garden for weeks now. They are at best ok and people seem to like them. There are millions of them now. I was thinking that I need a real plum tree with bigger tastier plums. I wrote last week about a plum tree in our neighborhood that my friend George told me about. I decided to give them a week more on the tree, because they were not quite ripe and they were not too flavorful or sweet. I hooked my ladder onto my small bike cart (so proud of my eco-friendly efforts) and happily rode down the street to pick my new found tree. When I got to Juri Commons where the tree was overhanging from a neighboring yard I discovered the fruit had mostly all fallen onto the ground or some was picked. The tree still had about a half bucket of fruit on it which I picked, but it was still not very sweet nor tasty, though definitely ripe. So much for that. I must admit while picking the tree I was sort of expecting someone seeing me reaching over the fence into the neighbors yard and stealing their fruit. Maybe I should ask next time.

What is funny is that I put the half bucket of these plums on the table with the yellow plums that were very tasty, and the ok small cherry plums. A man came by who didn't speak English who wanted some plums. I tried to get him to take the yellow plums, but he chose the ones that looked more familiar to him, the ripe, flavorless plums from the Juri Commons tree.

Allegra is a new friend that has a recipe for cooking excess fruit, especially stone fruit like plums that she wanted me to share with people on my blog. I am posting this with some comments. First, I think it isn't worth cooking fruit down for sauce if it doesn't have much flavor to begin with. I have made a delicious sauce with small a little larger than cherry size plums that were tasty, but I added sugar to make them less tart. The problem with cooking stone fruit is you have to get rid of the pit which is labor intensive. And how does she peel the plum skin?

This is very easy, delicious and economical!

Cooked Stone Fruit - Easy and Delicious!

Carefully wash extra ripe or bruised fruit (peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums)
I suggest peeling plums, the skin is quite acid especially when cooked. All the other fruit can be cooked with skins left on. Discard pits of all fruit before cooking.

Cut off portions that are starting to spoil (dark, mushy parts)

Cut fruit in chunks or slices - slices will cook faster than chunks

In large saucepan, add small amount of water - enough to cover the bottom of pan (about 1/8th inch depending on size of pan. This will keep fruit from scorching pan.

As the fruit cooks it will render its own juice).

Over LOW heat, add fruit to saucepan or large pot, simmer covered for about 10 - 15 minutes. No need to add any sugar, the fruit is naturally sweet.

You may add a small amount of ground cinnamon or ground cardamom for added zest. I find that the fruit has its own unique, natural flavor.

Make sure the fruit does not boil heavily or cook too long unless you want fruit that is very mushy (think apple sauce consistency).

Either way you can eat this wonderful fruit compote warm, chilled or you can freeze it. Use yogurt cups or other heavy plastic cartons

(no glass as it could break when it freezes) to freeze in batches to be enjoyed long after the summer season... when you are "craving" those tastes of Summer!

The Secret Garden

Robert has finished his summer program of art and gardening with kids and the garden is looking pretty good with the work he did getting in some new double dug beds. With the seedlings we got from the Victory Garden across from city hall and the ones I grew, most of the beds are planted. I have already begun harvesting lettuce and kale for the farm stand. In the next week or so I want to organize some work brigades to do some pruning of the plum trees overhanging and shading the beds, replanting at least one of the raised beds, and cleaning up the composting area. I can use some help and will have a big work day on Saturday in the afternoon. Early in the week I will also work there, probably Tuesday morning, maybe Wednesday afternoon, or Friday. If anyone is interested please contact me for exact days and times. I am somewhat flexible with days and hours I can work.

A prayer for Sister Pat

This isn't really about the Free Farm Stand, but a beautiful and intense experience I had last week. I learned last Wednesday that a woman I had worked with for many years at Martin de Porres Soup Kitchen had collapsed suddenly while walking on Valencia Street and was in the hospital unconscious on life support. I learned that she didn't want to be on life support and later in the afternoon she was going to be taken off the machine. When I got to the hospital all her friends from Martin's and the nuns from the order she was a member of were there. I walked in the room where she was in bed and everyone was singing and many crying, including myself. It was such an emotional scene, both sweet and powerful. I can't really put it in words. She obviously was a wonderful person that affected so many lives and was much loved. She seemed to have a very peaceful transition and I think we all were glad that she suffered so very little in her leaving this world behind.

I just learned that another person I know has pancreatic cancer and is going to begin chemotherapy. Life can seem at times so short. Let's pray that we can appreciate life and all its mysteries and miracles. That we stay connected with our hearts to our friends and families, and that we may use our time here in positive ways.

PS

I forgot to mention the neighbor who lives across the street who brought a shopping bag full of organic melons ( watermelons and honeydews). Her house I think is a drop off point for a CSA (I can explain what a CSA is another time if people don't know...Terra Firma was the CSA) and she had a bunch leftover that people didn't pick up. They were given away in a blink of an eye. I had thought of snagging one for myself, but no chance.




1 comment:

Michael said...

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Gardening Tip 1? Consider your plants health as well as your own. Ensure you keep yourself well hydrated whilst gardening. As most gardening is done in the sun, involves physical labor and is very engrossing, it is easy to work away for hours on end without noticing the time flying by.

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