Wednesday, October 28, 2009

in the orchard

Though I am always seek to creating more rhythm in our family, when I look to the food and farm based activities that we do each year I am pleased to see that we have a clear sense of the agricultural rhythm in our area. We can remember when things happen, or have happened, based what was growing, what we were eating. Miryam knows when her friend will turn a year older because she was born "when the strawberries are ripe". Papa goes back to teaching when the apples are on the trees. The corn doesn't come until we have been swimming for a while. We are not purist about eating only what is in season but there are certain foods - tomatoes, corn on the cob, berries and the like - that we truly only eat when we can get them at the farmer's market or a farm stand. Once you really know tomatoes unless they are in season you can bear to eat them fresh. Corn has to be eaten the very day it was picked. I've heard that some people take a campstove with a cooking pot of water, heat it to a boil and then pick, shuck and cook the corn within moments of harvest. I can relate. Corn that fresh is good raw and really only needs to be steamed for about 2 minutes to make it hot enough for butter to melt on it.

This year, due to unexpected travel and too much rain, we missed strawberry picking. This also means that we missed strawberry jam-making which feels a bit traumatic. Lots of people have complained about what an off summer we had. Very cool and wet and then straight to a short burst of hot and humid - everything was damp. It does feel a bit like summer was snuck by us when we weren't looking, and missing strawberry picking feels a bit like we lost the month of June. Oops! It's a bit disconcerting and now it is a whole year until we can give it another try. I guess we better figure out marmalade.

That is all a long way of saying that because we missed strawberries we needed to make up our seasonal balance by picking an obscene amount of apples. We were tipped of by a friend that our state college has a test orchard a few towns away that has over 100 varieties of apples. The views were stunning and the area we were sent to pick in was filled with a mix of varieties, all but a handful were new to us and some of them, we were told, were so new that they didn't even have names yet just I.D. numbers. We were encouraged to takes bite of whatever we wanted to see how they were. It was really enlightening eating so many apples in such quick succession. Though I was aware that there was a vast variety of flavors and textures across the apple world but I was actually amazes at how stark the differences could be. We were completely paperless that day but next year I'd like to write down some of our favorites. We got a bunch of all of them and mixed them together in a sauce to eat over the winter. I have never succeeded in canning enough apple sauce to get through the year but seeing the rows of jars, I might just make it.