Posts Tagged ‘plums’

Sep02

Giving Fruit to Youth in our Communities

High Point HEalthy Families Celebration

These past couple of weeks have been very exciting for me as I’ve been able to expose City Fruit to two neighborhood Back to School events and provide fruit to them as well! A large part of why I do the work I do is because I care deeply about culturally appropriate, healthy food access for all people regardless of where they live, what they do, or how much money they make. As a person who grew up in a working class family and who had to trek nearly thirty minutes to a single farmers market outside of my community, I’ve made it a part of my life’s goal to increase accessibility of affordable (or in City Fruit’s case, free!) fresh food.

The first event — High Point Healthy Families Celebration —  was held at Neighborhood House in West Seattle, one of the first neighborhoods in Seattle where City Fruit still harvests and donates fruit. The community event was hustling and bustling with other awesome organizations who have a presence in West Seattle. Besides for awesome City Fruit gear giveaways, we were able to donate many crates of Italian plums to complement their free dinner!

Van Asselt Elementary School was the next Back to School festival we were able to partner with this year. We’re lucky enough to work in the same neighborhood of the school (Beacon Hill), so providing fresh fruit for them just made sense! Over 400 people attended the event and they were able to enjoy some tasty varieties of pears and plums. They also got some sweet bookmarks to start their school year off right! Our harvest coordinator Luke dropped off the bounty and was swarmed by a group of third graders who asked asked him how much money all of the fruit cost to buy in which he was able to explain City Fruit’s model. His response was shocking to the kids: “It was free! Thanks to the goodwill and generosity of folks in our community, MANY more people can enjoy fresh fruit!”

Support City Fruit today by getting involved as a volunteer harvester to get more fruit to families in need. You can also join us by taking care of the fruit trees in one of the public parks we steward to ensure pest free apples, plums, and pears!

Melanie is the Community Outreach Coordinator for City Fruit.

Aug01

August report

Many of the You-pick farms from Mt. Vernon to Snohomish are having a bumper crop of blueberries this year. Think about having the fun of locating one such farm on the internet, finding out when you should come out and then having a lot of fun.

Many folks are also experiencing a very good year for Yellow Transparent apples. There are several advantages in having a very early apple.

Plums are just around the corner now…start paying attention to when they are ripe……usually the plums on the outside of the tree color up before the plums shaded in the interior of the tree.
       http://justplums.blogspot.com/2011/06/how-to-tell-if-plum-is-ripe.html

Jun16

mid-June update

The cool weather this June probably means you are still in time to do some protective work on your apples and Asian pears as there have been some delays on our bugs coming out.

European pears (like Bartletts)  do not need protection at this point as the skins on the pears are still very hard.

And your plums also  do not need protection at this point (for most people, anyway). Maybe later in the summer we can talk about the plums.

Also, please note: What everyone should know is that many of your gardening questions can be answered by Master Gardeners at locations near you. Visit the website for King County Master Gardeners or open this link please and note that there are various useful sites to click on, (such as the 2012 Plant Clinic Schedule:

  http://county.wsu.edu/king/gardening/Documents

Jun10

June Fruit Tree Tip: Thin Fruit Now

If you’re like us, you’re getting excited for the upcoming fruit harvest. I can’t help but continually check out our fruit trees to watch the progress of our fuit — apples, pears, plums all getting bigger. And by now, your apples and pears should be the size of a quarter (or larger), and hard as it is to contemplate, it’s time to ruthlessly remove much of the fruit (called ‘thinning’).

This activity helps the fruit tree focus its energy to a fewer number of fruit, making those fruit that are left larger and tastier. Would you rather have a lot of small, bland fruit or slightly fewer fruit that are of good size and taste? It’s not just about this year though — leaving fruit on the branch means that you get smaller fruit this year and less fruit next year. So thin your fruit now for both short-term and long-term benefits.

In this short video, Tom Thornton of Cloud Mountain Farm, shows how and tells why to do this.

Nov07

November update

(We post our monthly email newsletter, with tips about fruit tree care, notes about happenings in the area and updates about City Fruit, to the blog but if you want it delivered directly to your inbox, please email info@cityfruit.org.)

Hi everyone,

Fruit tree tip: Pick up your fallen fruit. Experts say that the single most important thing you can do to prevent pests next year is to remove fallen fruit (and leaves). Pests in the fruit overwinter beneath the tree, just waiting to create problems next season. Rake it up and put it in your yard waste (not your compost pile).

New grant supports Rainier Valley fruit trees: We have a new grant to help the Rainier Valley community plant and care for fruit trees. If you have a public (e.g., school, senior center, city street, park, public housing, etc.) site or an ‘institutional’ space (senior living facility, business or office site, etc.) in the Rainier Valley that could support fruit trees or berry bushes, let us know at info@cityfruit.org .

The Rainier Valley Eats (RaVE) program, supported by the United Way of King County, recognizes that fruit plays a significant role in urban food production and is helping us grow more — and more appropriate — fruits in south Seattle.

2011 Harvest Summary: We harvested more than 7,000 lbs of fruit in the Phinney-Greenwood corridor and in south Seattle neighborhoods. Again this year, plums — our major ‘crop’ — were light, so we worked hard to compensate with apples, cherries, grapes, figs and even quince. Crop diversity is important, since fruit production is closely related to fickle spring weather: while there were few plums, 2011 was a bumper year for figs. More than 25 different organizations received fruit: they include women’s shelters, senior centers, food banks, meals programs, daycares, community centers and youth programs.

While our per pound cost to harvest fruit goes down each year due to increased efficiency, harvesting in an urban environment is still expensive — this year about $1.00/lb. We funded the 2011 harvest by selling a small portion of the fruit to restaurants, by a grant from Puget Sound Energy and through City Fruit memberships and donations. In other words, by becoming a member of City Fruit, you will directly support next year’s harvest.

Hard Cider Making workshop: Speaking of hard cider, check out the week-long seminar on “Cider Marking: Principles and Practices” Dec 12 – 16 in Mt. Vernon. International cider expert (from England) Peter Mitchell will cover hands-on cider-making techniques and give an overview of the market. The seminar is sponsored by the NW Agricultural Business Center and the WSU NW Research and Extension Center in Mt Vernon. Register at NABC website or contact Ann Leason at 360-336-3727.

New fruit growing book: From Tree to Table: Growing Backyard fruit Trees in the Pacific Maritime Climate by Barbara Edwards and Mary Olivella states on the back cover: “Plant a fruit tree — join the revolution.” It goes on: “This charming and easy-to-use guide dispels the myth that local gardeners in our sun-challenged, maritime Pacific climes can’t grow fruit trees.” (My own local fruit expert says the advice in the book is right on.) In addition, there are great recipes, from preserves to fruit-based main dishes to how to make pear perry. If you buy the book from City Fruit, the publisher shares the proceeds with us — so don’t delay! Cost is $18.95. Contact us at info@cityfruit.org .

Okay, take care and have a great Thanksgiving!
Gail

Sep01

September Report

      A note on Pears: It is time to start thinking about your pear harvest, if you haven’t already. Each variety of pear requires a different kind of treatment. However, in general know this: Asian pears should be picked when they are ripe on the tree while European pears (like the Bartlett) are picked when still green and must ripen off the tree. Also, remember that every pear needs some chilling before it is allowed to ripen.

       http://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/node/413

        A note on the Spotted Wing Drosophilia (SWD): This was a light year for the drosophilia. We don’t know why but perhaps the intensely cold temperature we had just before Thanksgiving in 2010 reduced the population. We are seeing evidence of SWDs in raspberries and blackberries, some cherries, a few plums. So far, Washington grapes (as opposed to warmer clime California grapes) seem to be somewhat resistant to this pest.
        There is no damage from SWDs to apples and pears with their harder skins.

Jul15

Mid-July Report

Pears – The hard skin of most European pears has made them impervious to codling moth so far. However, as the summer progresses and the skin softens, it is time to think about putting a bag or footie (or spray) on the pears to protect them. You are probably not too late if you do this before August of this year.

Spotted Wing Drosophilia
– This dangerously well adapted fruit fly has been causing organic growers to tear their hair out as it is hard to control with organic sprays. Nevertheless, the record cold and wet spring that we experienced seems to have reduced their numbers this year. It would be a good precaution to apply a preventative a week to two weeks before your berries, cherries or plums are ripe.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug
– So far Seattle hasn’t seen this bug in very big numbers but it is a growing problem back East and in Portland. We’ll post if we see a large influx.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_marmorated_stink_bug

Jul05

Nudging your neighbors

We get asked a lot, “My neighbors have a beautiful fruit tree that they never harvest, what should I do?”  Sometimes it’s more like, “I WOULD have great fruit if only my neighbors wouldn’t leave THEIRS to rot all over the ground!” or “They have this tree that hangs out over the sidewalk and and drops fruit everywhere so no one can get by and it gets all over your car and shoes and…”

Calm down people!  Here’s what to do: First, take a deep breath.  Remember this nugget of wisdom: People aren’t lazy, they’re exhausted.  Your neighbors are probably too busy to even think about that fruit, or maybe they see it in passing and think I should do something about that… but they’re already off to whatever’s next.  But that’s why City Fruit exists.  We take all that fruit that people are too busy for, and give it to people who really need it, meanwhile, cleaning up your rotting fruit problem!

Now it’s time to talk to your neighbors, and it’s best to be prepared.  Find out ahead of time who to contact, and write it down.  I’ll make it easy for you:

Think about what to say.  We reccomend keeping it positive, leaving out your annoyance altogether, and focusing on helping people in need.  Here’s a script:

“I noticed you have a fruit tree in your yard that isn’t fully harvested.  I wanted to let you know about an organization called City Fruit that harvests neighborhood fruit trees and donates the produce to organizations in Seattle that help people in need. Would you be interested in that?  I wrote down the email address here.”

This could go a couple of ways:

  • “That’s great!  We’ve been so busy lately.”  Good job, you’ve rescued the fruit!  Make some small talk.  Maybe check in a week later, since they’re busy people and may have forgotten.
  • “How does it work?” It’s OK if you don’t know the details.  Here’s the basics: We scout the tree to see when it’s ripe, then organize a volunteer work party.  The owner can decide to be there or not, and we schedule harvests daytime, evenings, and weekends.  We can leave a small box of fruit at the owner’s request.  For other questions, they can check out our website or just contact the harvest coordinator directly.
  • I’m the last person in the world without a computer” (I don’t mean that out of sarcasm, that’s just always what people say.) Offer to contact us for them.  Write down their phone number, send it to us explaining the circumstances, and we’ll give them a call.
  • “I can harvest it, I just can’t use it!”  They can take donations to the food bank themselves.  See our website for a list of donation sites.  Also consider exchanging some fruit, or other goods, if you’d like a taste of some of that fruit!  We’ve heard of neighbors setting up an exchange so that everyone gets one box of plums, one of apples, one of pears, etc.  You could even hold a canning party to make some jams for everyone.
  • “I can use it, I just can’t harvest it!”  PNA members can check out an orchard ladder from the tool library.  Or maybe you have one to share!
  • “Bah! I can let ‘em rot if I want!”  I do mean that out of sarcasm.  People probably won’t say that, but it’s possible.  If so, don’t push it.  You can’t win ‘em all.  If there’s really a mess on the sidewalk or street, you could offer to clean it up.  You could report it to the city too, since residents have a responsibility to keep the sidewalk clear, but that might result in the loss of the tree, so consider carefully.
  • If they’re not home, try again or leave a note, but be sure to sign it.  If they realize it’s coming from a friendly neighbor, they’re much more likely to follow through.

Thanks for caring so much about harvesting fruit!  We find that folks often just don’t know what to do with a fruit tree.  Once they see it harvested, they start to see it as good food, which leads to taking caring of the tree and harvesting it.  Good luck!

May18

Mid-May Report

       Finally a few sunny days ! !
       I have already seen a few developing pears and a few sour cherries getting started. Since the sour cherry trees are self-pollinating, they at least could survive our incredibly cool wet “no fly zones” created for our bees this Spring.
       This will undoubtedly be another bad year for some types of plums, but the apple trees that are out in bloom now should be fine in terms of being sufficiently pollinated.   

       Some people will have taken steps to protect against apple scab already, but this is the time of the year when it is time to now start paying attention to the bugs.    The first bug to arrive on the scene for the apple is the codling moth….and if you live in South Seattle or by the Phinney area, there is a chance the codling moth will arrive about May 27th in very small numbers.
       Talk to a local nursery about a spinosad product or neem oil or kaolin clay or some such for organic solutions.
       Those applying foot sox to protect against the codling moth should probably think about putting the footies on the apples as soon as one can discern the apples this year. Here is a link that may help:

         http://pipersorchard.org/category/supplies-foot-sox/

       No other fruit crops need pest protection at this time, but summer approaches……stay tuned for the June report the first week of June.

Apr14

Mid-April Report

      There is a well-used statement that goes like this: “be careful what you wish for…..you might get it.”
      Six weeks ago I was hoping for moderately cool weather…..not freezing, definitely, just cool enough so as to delay blooming until we had an assurance of warmer, non-freezing Spring weather.
      Well, that is kind of what happened…but not quite the way I wanted it. We have indeed had cool weather in the Seattle area for February and March. We still await a 60 degree day and it has been so rainy that month after month we exceed the average for precipitation.
      Some of our apple trees won’t be blooming until May now. That is good, in a way, because it gives us more time to get ready for our pest protection programs.
      However, some of our plum trees have already been blooming…..and, unfortunately, our bees and pollinating insects enjoy the unusually wet and cold Springs even less than we do….and have been less active accordingly.
      My current expectation is for a poor crop set for Seattle area Asian plums, peaches and cherries that have been blooming already…..a good crop set for apples and pears that will be blooming….and a big question mark with the Italian prune plums at this point.

Mar08

March Report

The kaleidoscope of changing Seattle weather patterns makes it difficult to predict in March how fruitful our trees will be in August.  One thing is for sure:   Extended early warm weather followed by unseasonably cold weather in the Spring is dangerous and helps explain our Italian prune loss for last year, 2010, because that is what happened last year.

Generally speaking,  the further along  fruit buds are in development, the more sensitive they are to cold temperatures.

For 2011, our unseasonably warm January helped to swell some of our plum buds prematurely and it is possible that a few of the 20 degree nights we had in late February caused a small percentage loss of some of  the plums to come.  (Probably just a nice little thinning is one guess).

So far, we are optimistic.  Actually, this cold weather for early March  is a good thing.  We are not ready for our fruit trees to blossom out just yet and we welcome delays in bud development at this point.

Feb21

Pruning Time

Don Ricks will be posting about fruit care topics here from time to time–why not start with the first chore of the year?  Here’s what he says about pruning:

Did the excessive rains cause you to get “cabin fever”  this winter?   Rejoice!    Pruning time has come and you can go out now and reclaim the landscape.

In February and March we can prune apple, pears, and plums.   Information and opportunities as to where to prune will be posted.  You already have reference to the class schedule link in Gail’s earlier blog.   We will repost this and also offer information on specific work opportunities if you wish to volunteer your time and learn something in the process.

Note from Don:   I recently talked with a woman who had “lost confidance”  in her husband’s pruning abilities.   Last year her trees produced poorly.   When I told her that year 2010 was a very bad year for Italian prune plums and cherry trees  and that this had nothing to do with how the trees were pruned then she seemed to have regained some of her confidance in her aspiring hero.

Folks, pruning has less to do with the particular crop you get that year and more to do with the quality and size of fruit for the years in the future.  More to come.

Dec21

The Year of Urban Agriculture in Review

It looks like we’ve come to the end of the official Year of Urban Agriculture—but we hope the City of Seattle’s initiative will make every year following this a better one for urban agriculture.  Certainly, here at City Fruit we’ll continue the important (and fun!) work of growing, harvesting and using food in the city.  So, what happened this year in urban agriculture?

  • The City of Seattle passed the urban agriculture legislation, which included zoning changes to encourage growing food in the city, as well increasing the allowable domestic fowl to eight.  That makes Seattle one of the most chicken-friendly cities in the nation.
  • The Department of Neighborhoods identified the second round of P-Patches to be developed from the 2008 Parks Levy.  New gardens in underserved areas are on the way, amidst an ever-rising demand for garden plots.
  • City Fruit developed the Urban Orchard Stewardship Program to organize volunteers to steward fruit trees in parks.  In the coming years, volunteer stewards will learn to take care of fruit trees, work with the Parks Department to develop plans for each park, and work to keep the trees healthy and harvested.  Inspired by the highly successful Green Seattle Partnership, we hope this program will become a model itself for municipalities across the country.
  • Some combination of events (possibly rain at the time of pollination) made 2010 the worst Italian Prune-Plum harvest in recent memory.  Let’s hope that after a year off, the plums are resolving to make 2011 the best.
  • Despite the plum harvest (and lower harvests across the board for fruit trees), over 50 City Fruit volunteers  harvested 10,000 pounds of fruit from over 100 trees.  Most of this fruit went to people in need around Seattle, including food banks, soup kitchens, senior centers, and childcare centers.  Even in a bad year, there’s no shortage of fruit in Seattle, we just need people to harvest and use it!

It seems appropriate to celebrate the end of an agricultural year on the solstice, so raise your flute of sparkling cider: here’s to a great year for urban agriculture, and may next year be even better (party horns and confetti here)!

Oct25

City Fruit Party

Yesterday we had our City Fruit annual party for our volunteers & supporters — was a fun time! There was a great conversation about the harvest, what we can do better next year, and what worked well this year, but it wasn’t all work. A friend of ours donated a cider press so we went out and gathered a bunch of apples and made a ton of cider — everyone who wanted to got to bring some home.

We also had a jam tasting with several different kinds of jam that people brought. Wow, they were good. I think the most creative was the rose champagne one, but I’m a sucker for plums so that was my favorite.

Thanks to all the board members who helped put the party together, all the wonderful volunteers without whom we couldn’t do what we do, and all our friends who keep us going with great ideas and support.

Check out more photos from the party below.

Working away at the cider press, trying to stay dry under the tarp.

Some of the great food everyone brought.

the jams for tasting

Took three people to operate at full capacity.

Cooking up the cider.

Enjoying some of the cider. Will (second from left) lent us the press for the day.

Sep24

Nice to Meet You!

You may not have heard that City Fruit has recently hired an AmeriCorps member: that’s me!  I’ll be working on City Fruit projects two days a week out of my office at Phinney Neighborhood Center.  Since I’ve started on September 1, I’ve been busy setting up a full schedule of fall classes.

This will be my second AmeriCorps term; my first was at EOS Alliance (that’s Environmental Outreach and Stewardship Alliance).  Among other things, I set up workshops on sustainable living, organized community events, and hosted habitat restoration work parties.  Before EOS, I was an English major at UPS.  As a student, I studied sustainability in Australia and I interned at Tahoma Audubon Society as the newsletter editor.

Here are some more fun facts:

  • I’m originally from Minnesota, where the Honeycrisp apple was developed.
  • My favorite dessert to make: apple pie.
  • My favorite easy dessert to make: poached plums (recipe follows).
  • If I were a bird, I’d be a loon.
  • If you’d like to contact me about City Fruit, my email address is jill@cityfruit.org (OK, that wasn’t fun so much as useful).

Easy Poached Plums

Pit and halve 2 plums per person, place in an appropriately sized saucepan, and pour in orange juice to just cover.  Sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, and sugar (optional).  Simmer until soft.

Aug19

Orchards with Renewable Energy

A few stories have caught my eye recently about farmers taking advantage of new legislation and government grants in order to reduce their carbon footprint by building up their renewable energy resources. Some legislators are even exploring ways to build renewable energy in to farm bills to provide a more holistic benefit to farmers.

Carlson Orchards – Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

I’m kind of a Scientific American junkie and so the first piece that caught my eye was in there. It’s about how one of the largest orchards in Massachusetts is benefiting from that state’s cap & trade auctions. Carlson Orchards is cutting their electricity bill by 80% with the help of grants from the state of Massachusetts that helped with the installation of 1,050 solar photovoltaic panels.

Massachusetts got the money from a 10-state cap & trade program called Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Through this, the states set a carbon emissions cap and then earn revenue when companies buy additional credits. So far the combined 10 states have earned over $400 million dollars ($106 for MA) that they then re-invest in renewable energy programs.

And Carlson Orchards is taking advantage of that. In addition to growing apples and making apple cider, that orchard is reducing its footprint and electricity bill.

Clark Family Orchards – Rural Energy for America Program

Similarly, in Colorado, a fifth-generation farmer is taking advantage of a program that was in the 2008 Farm Bill called the Rural Energy for America Program to cover about 25% of his costs to install solar panels that will offset about 55,000 kilowatt hours of electricity yearly.

A bit about the REAP program from their website:

“REAP offers grants and/or loan guarantees for the purchase and installation of renewable energy generating systems and for energy efficiency improvements.  Assistance is limited to small businesses and farmers & ranchers.  Projects must be located in a rural area.  REAP grants and guarantees may be used individually or in combination.  Together they may finance up to 75% of a project’s cost.  Grants can finance up to 25% of project cost, not to exceed $500,000 for renewables, $250,000 for efficiency.  There are also REAP grants to help pay for technical assistance on energy projects.”

With the energy costs continually going up, the solar panels going on the packing shed will save him about $4,500 a year.

Dennis Clark grows cherries, apples, peaches, pears, and plums on the orchard and now with the help of solar panels he’s also saving more than 116,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the earth’s atmosphere.

The Next Farm Bill

As more and more farmers take advantage of incentives and grants to create renewable energy, legislators are looking at how the existing programs are doing and thinking about how future farm bills might be written to increasingly encourage renewable energy use on farms and in rural communities. The next farm bill is still 3 years away, but that’s not stopping folks from thinking about it now.

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand recently visited several New York farms, to better understand their needs — including those around renewable energy. She’s on the agriculture committee and so has a vested interest in making sure the next farm bill works for New York farmers — and presumably farmers across the country.

Let’s hope more senators take the time to get out there, talk to farmers, and create the next bill that really helps farmers not only produce great fruits, vegetables, and livestock, but also empowers them to reduce their carbon footprint and leverage more renewable energy.

Aug10

Someone mentioned greengages….

This article appeared in this last weekend’s Financial Times of London’s Weekend. It has interesting news about fruit in another part of the world and some great recipes.

The fruits of a long hot summer
By Peter Gordon

Published: August 7 2010 00:39 | Last updated: August 7 2010 00:39

August is a lovely month in the kitchen as the summer heat ripens blackberries and bilberries, apricots, greengages and plums, as well as tomatoes, peppers and aubergines. The flavours tend towards the sweet and rich – whether it be hedgerow fruit or the slight bitterness of rich purple aubergines. Lightly cooked and lightly handled is my motto at this time.

I am on a brief trip to New Zealand and was reading in the newspapers that the relentless summer heat in Italy has cut the tomato crop there by 20 per cent. This is terrible news for the Italians – with their dairy production dropping at a similar rate, will mozzarella and tomato salad soon seem a luxury?

But in Britain and northern Europe, the hot summer has tomato vines bursting at the seams and brambles dripping with juice. Next weekend brings the start of the British game season, so before grouse starts to make itself regularly known on your table, make the most of the last of the summer goodies.

Peter Gordon is the chef at Providores in London, www.theprovidores.co.uk

…………………………………………..

Tomato and aubergine salad

This is great served under pan-fried mackerel fillets or with a poached chicken breast – just add a lemon wedge and salad greens. Serves four.

Ingredients

6-8 large vine-ripened tomatoes

2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced into rings

The juice of 1 large lemon (you may need more)

1 aubergine

1 large handful flat parsley leaves

1 handful basil leaves

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Method

● Score the tomatoes with a cross in the stem end and plunge into boiling water for 15 seconds, then in iced water. Peel the skin from them, cut into very thin wedges and mix with the shallots and lemon juice.

● Cut the stem from the aubergine and slice lengthwise 1cm thick. Brush with vegetable oil and griddle or pan-fry until coloured and softened. Cut crossways into “fingers” and mix into the tomato.

● Add the parsley, basil and olive oil and season. It may need more lemon juice. Leave for one to two hours, stir and it’s ready.

…………………………………………..

Greengage and blackberry fool

Greengages are a subtle but richly flavoured relative to the plum, and they’ve been making a revival in recent years. They’re lovely poached and bottled for winter crumbles, or split, stones removed, and frozen on trays for adding at the last minute to chicken and pumpkin curry, or even lightly pickled with ginger and cloves to be served with cold meats at Christmas. In summer, it is best to cook them gently and fold them into a custard-rich fool with a juicy blackberry topping. Serves six to eight.

Ingredients

400g greengages: remove stems and wipe with a damp cloth

120g unrefined caster sugar

¼ vanilla bean, split lengthways

300ml milk

3 egg yolks

300g blackberries

2 tbsp icing sugar

400ml double cream

Method

● Place the greengages in a pot with half the sugar and a few tablespoons of water and bring to a simmer. Put the lid on and slowly cook until they’ve burst from their skins and the mixture becomes pulpy – stir frequently.

● Make your custard by bringing the remaining sugar, the vanilla and milk to a simmer. Whisk the egg yolks until foamy then whisk in half the hot milk mixture. Return to pan and cook over moderate heat, stirring until it coats the back of a spoon. Tip into a clean bowl and gently whisk for 20 seconds to help cool it. Cool, then chill in the fridge.

● Remove the stones from the cooled fruit and put in the fridge. Mix together the blackberries and icing sugar and place in the fridge.

● An hour before you want to eat the fool, lightly whip the cream to soft peaks. Beat in the cold custard until firmer peaks, then fold in the fruit, rippling it in. Place in a bowl – a glass one is best – and drizzle the blackberries on top. Top with toasted almonds or pistachios.

Aug04

Best of Seattle 2010: Gail Savina, Fruit Savior

We try not to toot our own horn too much here on the blog, but I had to share that our fearless leader, Gail Savina, was identified as one of Seattle Weekly’s Best of Seattle 2010 — Best Fruit Savior. For all the work Gail’s done, including her work with City Fruit. From the article:

“After talking to Savina, your own view of Seattle may change. Adjust your gaze, even slightly, and you begin to see the “urban orchard” Savina describes, fruit trees rising from the landscape: plums, apples, pears, cherries, figs, quince. City Fruit’s work strengthens communities now, but in a town that was once home to many farms and orchards, it also paints a lovely, almost ghostly, portrait of Seattle’s past. “

The Seattle Weekly had a special section of their Best of… series with a section they called The City of Angels — highlighting people and organizations that are giving back tot he city, trying to make it a better place. So we’re very honored to have Gail among that list.

There were also two other food-related Angels that are worth checking out — Bunly Yun and Reverend Robert Jeffery. Each of them are doing great work to help provide more healthy food to people.

Jun17

What kind of crop can we expect?

I’m getting excited about the upcoming harvest. This time of year is always bubbling with anticipation as we gear up for another harvest — recruiting volunteers, identifying tree owners who have excess fruit, etc. And as part of that I always wonder what kind of crop we’ll get this year. Last year, we had a record amount of plums. What will it be this year?

Things don’t look so good  in Michigan — at least not beyond a good blueberry production. Looks like the apple crop will be down 53% due mainly to early spring warm weather followed by cold. They’re expecting a lower-than-normal cherry crop as well. And even though New Hampshire had similar conditions (including a frost May 10), they anticipate a good apple harvest.

Since we had similar conditions here in Washington, I was wondering if we’re in for a similar trend. Like everything, the answer isn’t quite cut & dry.

From the same article about Michigan, there’s a reference that Washington apple crop should actually grow this year — 140 million bushels estimated, up from 132 last year. But I just read that several WA counties were designated “natural disaster areas” by the USDA because of how the weather impacted the apple & cherry crops. This allows farmers access to emergency loans to help them offset the cost of losses due to the weather. Although, if you read this from Fruitnet.com, it sounds like there’s a strong crop of cherry’s ready to go.

Getting a read on what the Seattle harvest will be like is even more difficult so it may just be a case of wait-and-see. Our pear trees are producing less than they did in 2009 — but they had a huge crop last year, so that’s kind of expected. I guess we won’t fully know until we start harvesting. We should start on the cherries, red plums, and transparent apples in July — so we’ll have a much better sense then.

And just to get you in the mood for the upcoming harvest season, which kicks off pretty much with cherries, here’s a video that tells you the proper way to harvest cherries:


Nov17

Top Ten Reasons to Grow Your Own Fruit

1. It fosters a sense of independence. Growing things poses tangible problems that are fun to figure out.

2. It’s fun and meditative.

3. It pays for itself quickly and saves you money. (A dwarf apple tree may produce about 15 lbs. of apples in the third planting year. 15lbs. X $2.00 per pound (2006 prices) means the fruit is worth $30. You can graft and grow your own trees for as little as $5 each or purchase them from many high quality nurseries for about $30. They will go on to produce quite a bit more fruit every year thereafter.)

4. Locally grown fruit tastes much, much better than fruit from a supermarket.

5. You, your children and the environment will all benefit from less exposure to chemicals if you garden organically.

6. It may make you popular during a catastrophe like an earthquake!

7. It brings you outdoors and encourages you to commune with the natural world.

8. Kids and neighbors think you are interesting. (My neighbor kids bought my surplus plums and resold them from a table at the end of their driveway. They paid me 10 cents per plum, picked them all and sold them for 30 cents each over a few hours and walked away with about $20. It was a quick lesson in capitalism.)

9. Homegrown fruit makes great gifts. I just received some homemade blackberry jam, and I enjoy it more than a mass produced product. It feels special.

10. It’s satisfying to do something tangible with living things!

Courtesy of John Reardon, of the Seattle Tree Fruit Society.