Precious Fruit

Two balls dangle in our yard. We watch and wait. They are precious fruit. (What homegrown fruit isn’t?) Precious because we nurture them and precious because they are rare. The peach tree literally has one peach on it. It will taste so good! But that seed — that’s the golden ticket! One bud endured the late freeze to become a flower successfully pollinated to become this precious fruit. Friday morning I say to Brian, “Remind me to check that peach. We don’t want something to beat us to it.” Less than an hour later we walk outside and eagerly approach the tree. Panic seeps through my optimistic whisper: “I don’t see it.” Maybe I’m looking in the wrong spot? “It was right here. I just took a picture of it on Monday.” It is gone. There is no sign of it on the ground, like when the birds or squirrels devoured last summer’s bounty.

One ball dangles in our yard. We watch and wait. It is the first time the passion vine has bore fruit. Not just this vine, but all the vines before, grown in all the yards before this one.

To be continued…

Weeknight Roadtrip

One of the more memorable books we’ve read with our daughter is Blueberries for Sal, so I’ve had “kerplink! kerplank! kerplunk!” in my head since yesterday afternoon when we decided to head 100 miles east to Uncle Buck’s Berry Farm.

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I was a little unsure about dragging my family on weeknight road trip, but all my self-doubt was assuaged once we arrived at the farm. We saw killdeer and wildflowers and holes in the ground that house eggs, as my daughter explained. The birdsong and our giddy outbursts (“This is so fun!” “What a good idea!” “Yummy!” “Is that a bird?!”) were the soundtrack as we picked from plants loaded with blueberries, just as as Uncle Buck had promised. It was somewhat chilly (!!!) and so overcast that we didn’t need to bother with sunscreen or hats, all things that increased the enjoyment of my hot-natured daughter and husband.

Buck’s family has farmed this acreage along Lavender Street for almost 100 years. The land the orchard occupies once was part of a larger soybean and peanut farm, but now the 5.5-acre berry patch is in its fourth year as a pick-your-own operation with 7,000 blueberry and blackberry plants. You can also find Uncle Buck and his berries at the Okmulgee Farmers’ Market.

After we got our fill of blueberries (both in our bellies and bowls), we had a picnic supper nestled between rows of blackberries and wildflowers.

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Here’s the Shrub

The last couple of summers, I have been lucky enough to be invited out to Rose Ranch to pick wild blackberries. Last summer was no different. Well — it was different, in a big way, because Rose Ranch had just lost Don Rose. As I headed out toward the brambles, there was a muffled quiet like when you navigate a crowded space while wearing ear plugs. It was as though the ranch was observing silence at the loss of its caretaker. I pondered what Vicki might be going through and quietly, meditatively picked the berries from the thorny vines that snagged my shirt and jeans. I felt grateful for the opportunity to be in Don’s domain while mourning his absence. We miss you, Don.

I picked several pounds of blackberries. I ate more than my share of raw berries, froze some for a future crisp, and decided to experiment with blackberry-infused vinegar to make a drinking vinegar, known as a “shrub.” The color and flavor of the berries leached into the white vinegar as it sat in the cupboard for almost one month. To the strained vinegar, I added sugar and simmered it to make a syrup, which is used to flavor carbonated water. Refreshing! Bracing! Add some spirits, if you wish.

Almost Eden

I don’t recall ever seeing a fresh fig before I moved into my rental house nearly three years ago. Thanks to this glorious summer and the efforts of my landlady, I’ve been eating figs on an almost daily basis and even collecting enough to make a batch of refrigerator jam. Lately I’ve felt so lucky, like I’m living in Eden or a fairyland.
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mascarpone crepes + fig jam
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fig jam

Plenty

Some friends went hiking in southwest Oklahoma Labor Day weekend and picked about two 5-gallon buckets of prickly pear fruit. I got to help make jelly, as well as a big mess!
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We had a jolly assembly line going: singe the spines off the fruit, quarter the fruit, puree, strain. And things got progressively sillier, due to Nancy‘s prickly pear juice cocktails.
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PB & (prickly pear) J

Gleanings

It’s been so long since I’ve posted anything, it took me a while to remember my password. So, hello, there. It’s been a while. Here’s some of the stuff that’s been keeping me busy: making ginger soda, killing roosters at Hill Farm, harvesting arrowroot and Jerusalem artichokes at Rose Ranch, fermenting kimchi and sauerkraut, picking persimmons, scarfing down homemade turkey pastrami and corned beef, picking pecans, exploring Oklahoma’s fall color, enjoying many potlucks with my dear friends and family, and pondering the point of this site. I haven’t come up with any answers about the latter, but I will elaborate on some of the former in the coming days. How about I start with the persimmons?

Pickin' persimmonsI’m enamored with the persimmon:
its brittle leaves like clover, its skin a wintery sunset

My generous neighbor, Anthony, shares his persimmons with me. After I noticed the trees in his yard last year, I included his house was on my walking route until I finally caught him outside. It’s a tricky thing, asking for permission to glean. It might be perceived as invasive and aggressive, but when well received, it can be an opportunity to create community. Anthony is the only person I’ve approached and luckily it went well. He has no interest in his persimmons, and was slightly amused by my enthusiasm.

Persimmons are still novel to me: I’m not sure I was aware of their existence before I moved to Oklahoma. Or maybe I was, but thought they were from some exotic land. (That land turned out to be Oklahoma and one of my goals from 2009 was to see a persimmon tree in person. Check!) Also, limited accessibility contributes to the persimmon’s novelty. They don’t ripen very well on the counter; ideally they are harvested at their peak, which means they are so soft they completely give under slight pressure, and they are so heavy and tender, they are barely hanging on to the tree.

The skin is edible and has a crystalline texture on the tongue. You can use it as a bowl to scoop out the creamy meat, which is best described as pudding. I made an actual pudding with persimmon purée, but I think the unadulterated form is better. If you have a good recipe, please share.

Handpicked

Last Saturday I got up early, picked up Julie and we headed to Rose Ranch to hunt for sand plums. (Two consecutive Saturdays of foraging!) We found only a handful of those, but were rewarded with loads of wild blackberries! The thorns snagged my clothes and skin — and I still have some splinters I could use some help with — but it was all worth it!

I bet we gathered at least 10 pounds, and they were the most precious berries ever. Not only because blackberries are expensive, but because we picked them ourselves on Don and Vicki’s beautiful land where they raise grass-fed beef. After a couple of hours of picking, but not even close to exhausting the blackberry canes, we got hungry and hot and went for lunch at Braum’s, waded and lounged at Arcadia Lake, followed by the Porch Mice and pizza at Sauced on Paseo. What a day!*

On Sunday Julie made a couple of blackberry cobblers to feed those Porch Mice, and I enjoyed wild blackberry compote crepes for breakfast, made a small batch of jam, and froze whole berries for some future dessert.
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*This post required much restraint. I wanted to punctuate every sentence with an exclamation point. That’s how much fun this day was!