Archive for August, 2010

forager’s season

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

“They ranged around the local landscape by carriage, stopping off at likely hunting grounds, measuring fairy-rings, and gathering an extraordinary hoard of wild mushrooms: milk-caps, ceps, chanterelles, witch’s butter, hedeghog fungi. The day ended in the Green Dragon in Hereford, with the exhibits strewn out on the pub tables, and a late lunch of the day’s best trophies: shaggy parasol on toast, fried giant puffballs, and fairy-ring champignons in white sauce. The puffballs especially were voted a great success, as was the day itself.”
[Richard Mabey, describing a Victorian mushroom expedition]

A few years back, a debate raged in the pages of a British newspaper on the role of foraging as a human activity. One side posited foraging as a middle class leisure activity, built on a literary mythology of the back-to-the land movement, and possibly a threat to nature if more people adopted the practice. The other side described contemporary foraging as an activity tying us to our prehistoric human roots, when 900,000 years ago all humans spent their days seeking food.

The historians, sociologists, ecologists and literary theorists will likely find some truth on both sides of the debate, but I look to foraging as a time to empty my brain of such concerns. Wandering the woods, seashore, or field edges might seem like a simple activity, but it demands attention and helps to create a quiet mind. Efforts are sometimes rewarded, and sometimes not. But the scratches and scrapes, dirty knees and other minor difficulties are generally rewarded. My only regrets are arriving one week late to a stand of brambles laden with blackberries, to see the bushes drooping under the weight of the now shriveled, and unpickable, fruit. It’s a shock to know I’ll need to wait a full year to be back in this place to, hopefully, reap the bounty.


Friday, August 13th, 2010

When we moved to Maine we bought a house with some acres.  On those acres were many weeds, some hay, a strange array of perennial rejects and a handful of fruit trees.  The sad collection of very old apple trees was hemmed in by an ugly makeshift fence.  They appeared not to have been loved for many years. But they were ours, and Don was thrilled.  He set about to slowly rehabilitate them.  We tore down the fence, cleared out the underbrush and Don did some pruning.  And then he did some more. The third year on the property I went to the Fedco Tree sale and bought some new apples, a couple pears and a pair of plums.  I had really wanted to come home with some sour cherry trees.  Back in NYC I had done a six-week stint pitting millions of pie cherries by hand for Karen DeMasco at Craft, and seeing all the delicious things she did with them inspired me to plant my own crop. I was to wait another year for my cherry trees, but we had serious fruit tree ambitions. Last year we had enough of an apple crop to warrant the making of applesauce and apple butter, as well as having apples to eat out of hand. We felt a distinct sense of accomplishment. We had fruit trees! My cherries had gone in the ground in the spring, forcing me to wait another year for fruit, but at least they were in. The orchard was taking shape.

So this year we had great expectations.  Early spring brought a profusion of blossoms. We smiled to each other; this year we would have fruit!  But Mother Nature has ways of teaching lessons.  Mid-May, with the trees in full bloom, we had two nights of hard frost followed by a couple of unseasonably warm days.  We lost all those lovely blossoms, and with them our dreams of fruit. I thought it couldn’t really be that bad; Don was resigned.  Early summer when I went out to check, it was true, there was no fruit.  Well, two measly little apples on one of the smaller trees, but nothing anywhere else.  I have to wait another year for my cherries, there will be no apple butter, Don will have another year of pruning to shape the trees.  We learn patience.  The hard way.

Out on a Limb Apple CSA 2010

The Rare Apple CSA is back!
Last year was the first time out for this fantastic idea. We are thrilled to announce its return, and once more we’re the pick-up location. Below you will find everything you might need to know.  Those who participated last year have had their chance to sign up, now the shares are open to the public.  If you are interested we suggest you sign-up ASAP for this highly popular CSA.

This fall, Out on a Limb Apple CSA will be offering unusual and historic dessert (fresh eating) and culinary (baking/cooking) apples in six pick-ups from early September to early November.  You will receive about 20 -25 varieties over the course of the season.  Details are below.  Space is limited, so please sign up soon!

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Rare Apple CSA but Were Afraid to Ask: