Sierra Vista Fruit Exchange

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How does your garden grow?

05/18/2008 -
Well, folks, the baby got hand, foot and mouth disease, the company I freelance for wanted more hours out of me, deadlines have loomed, our five year old suddenly needs to be chauffeured to a hell of a lot of places... and long story short, I've spent much more time thinking about this food thing than doing anything about it.

However, the garden stops for no man. Or woman. Or sick baby or overscheduled preschooler.

Today the mercury hit triple digits (106, according to my car thermometer!). By 10:00 it was unthinkable to do anything outside, and the only place worse than outside was inside (how many of you live in 1950s Jack Marchant ranchers? Those exposed beam pine ceilings are so charming, but once the temperature climbs over 85, our house becomes a convection oven).

Around 5 pm, I took the girls out to play with the hose so I could deadhead the African daisies and lay a little extra H2O on my drooping oakleaf hydrangeas. The air was beginning to mellow. The light was getting that soft, juicy, summer evening thing. Ginger toddled to the strawberry patch and started helping herself, unerringly picking the ripest berries and leaving any that slugs had nibbled. I noticed a purple blossom on one of my potato plants, and even though it seemed early in the season, I stuck a trowel in at the roots and hit paydirt. Russian banana fingerlings - perfectly formed, thin-skinned, golden, waxy-fleshed, knobby - beautiful. Had it not still been in the 90s I would have cooked them on the spot. As it is, they'll make a delicious meal this weekend, but meanwhile, it's pizza night, thank you very much, yes I would like another glass of viognier, how very perceptive of you.

What's working in your garden this late spring? My endive bolted prematurely: the onset of sexual maturity creates hormonal changes that cause it to become exceptionally unpleasant and bitter - a trait it seems to share with some humans, I might note. I've had mixed success with radishes (a round purple variety is doing decently. My white icicles are tiny, tough and unpleasantly hot, and not one of my French breakfast red and white striped ones even germinated.). I've yet to see a carrot that was visible to the naked eye (I thought they'd be nearly done by now) and the beets have been a little disappointing too, leaving the spuds as my only wildly successful root crop for the spring.

The good stuff? Strawberries. Quinalts, Sequoias, fraises de bois, and an albino variety with a flavor like tropical guavas, all doing brilliantly. Arugula - anyone need any arugula? Mine's going to flower and I can't eat it fast enough. But it's been delicious, not too spicy, good texture. We've had a decent crop of sugar snap peas, probably coming to an end soon if this weather keeps up, and I've discovered a newfound affection for Swiss chard. Ours has been stunningly beautiful, totally bug resistant, and so tender and mild-flavored that I've been loving it raw in salads. Then there are the garden crops that surpass "yummy" and just leave you awe-struck. Ours this year has been an artichoke plant, which has exploded to six feet high and wide, and has yielded a couple dozen perfect, absolutely delicious buds. I'd never grown one before, and now I'm just wondering where else I can start putting them in. They are such handsome plants, so vigorous and so sculptural that I wonder why more people don't landscape with them. I thought mine was finally on its way out, and today I noticed a brand new plant forming from its rootball. It's awesome. Meanwhile, pole beans, sunflowers, pumpkins, melons, and even a few passionfruits appear to be on the way. Can't wait.

Our earliest-fruiting tomatoes have set. The one-year-old pomegranate I put in is falling over from the weight of its new growth and incipient fruits. We have a bumper crop of Japanese plums, and I've had to force myself to accept the necessity of thinning the fruit for the common good - so hard, when the trees are young and you can imagine eating every single fruit they produce!

No figs so far, no cherries, no pears, no peaches - my trees are still babies. Hopefully next year. Is anyone out there growing apricots? I'll trade you for something. (arugula?? Please??)

Hey, that got long. But that's May for you.

Ring in on what you've got growing this summer. The hope is to gather in as many neighbors as possible for a few fun swap meet mornings down on the patio at Metro - sort of an under-the-radar farmers' market. Fruit, nuts, veggies, cut flowers, herbs - all fair game. I say we start the first weekend of June.

Also, if you have neighbors who might like to get in on this and aren't on the email list, chat with them. I'm thinking for instance of seniors who might have nice old trees and have a tough time harvesting, but might like to get more use out of their produce. We can help them. Eventually we can expand this whole thing past our corridor and to other parts of town, too, so if you have pals around here (Happy Valley, Glen Road, etc) who are about to get hailed on by excess walnuts or plums, rope them in!

Here's what I will likely have available to share / trade around the first of June:

  • Herbs: mint (several types), oregano, basil, fennel, pineapple sage, thymes, rosemary, kaffir lime leaf (thai food, anyone?).
  • Fruit: still have meyer lemons, some strawberries, possibly blueberries. Other tree fruits not until later in the summer.
  • Veggies: baby squash (zucchini and eightball), fingerling potatoes, possibly some early tomatoes.

How about you?

Meet your neighbors at Metro 1/26

01/20/2008 -
Hello people!

As promised, I am beginning to shake off the post-holiday overwhelm and move on with life. Erika Pringsheim-Moore, owner of the lovely Metro restaurant at the bottom of our little hill, has graciously offered the patio for us to meet up and discuss our budding local produce movement.

The proposed date is 1/26/08 at 9:30 in the morning, for about one hour. Coffee and some kind of light breakfast snack will be served, and it's a family affair for sure.

Please RSVP if you would, since if most people don't find this date convenient I will move it into february. This will be just a get-to-know-you for the most part, and all sierra vista folk are welcome.

If you still want to be involved, please tell your neighbors to come! This little adventure will definitely get more exciting the more people we can involve.

I've made contact with the people at deer hill ranch to see if they were interested in joining up with us (they sell fresh eggs and grass fed beef). They seemed enthusiastic about the idea of a local food sourcing venture (though they didn't seem to want to offer us a group discount on their six-buck-a-dozen eggs -- yet!) Anyway, there's much to discuss, but for now, in the short dormant season, let's just chat and learn a bit more about each other. I look forward to meeting those of you whom I don't already know in person.

Please let me know if the breakfast date works for you.

Best, Amy


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category = FRUITBLOG
tagses = FRUIT, MEETUP, METRO,

Happy Holidays

12/21/2007 -
Hello Neighbors.

This probably goes without saying, but my fruit and veggie mission has taken a backseat to the cold season and the holiday preparations. I hope you are all having a lovely end of the year.

Once the smoke clears, I'm going to make good on my promise of a functioning website and a meetup date. Erika has graciously volunteered the patio at her swanky restaurant, Metro, for a get-together... details to follow.

Meanwhile, we've got a nice crop of meyer lemons and navel oranges. (Anyone got blood oranges, clementines or grapefruit?).

We also have a ton of mistletoe that we took out of our ash tree. If anyone wants some for holiday decor... please come and get it, or let me know and i will drop some off at your door on one of our many jaunts up and down the hill.

Happy holidays to all!

Amy

category = FRUITBLOG
tagses = HOLIDAY, FRUIT,

Thanks for responding!

11/24/2007 -
We got a few responses from folks interested in trying out this thing. Seems like we'll have some good stuff come together soon. We'll collect all the info about what's growing, when we should meet, and what folks should expect.

Look for stuffs like this:

  • A calendar for events/seasons
  • A message board
  • A collection of recipes for all the goodies

category = FRUITBLOG
tagses = FRUITBLOG,

Opening Letter...

11/24/2007 -
Walking up Sierra Vista the other day, I was enjoying the sight of some of our fall-fruiting trees -- pomegranates, persimmons, walnuts -- and suddenly it hit me. There is a veritable supermarket up and down this street. Our neighborhood grows an astonishing variety of produce, from apples and oranges to guavas and loquats. If you are the owner of an overachieving mature fruit or nut tree, you know the drill: two weeks of more fruit (blackberries, lemons, oranges and plums in our case) than you can handle, and then it's over for the year. I'm wondering if there are families along this corridor who would be interested in forming a casual exchange where we all share and trade our extra garden crops. I'm calling this idea the Sierra Vista Produce Exchange. Some of the benefits would be:

  • It's fun! As you all know, Sierra Vista's lack of sidewalks and steep slope make it a little tougher than it should be to meet one another out in the neighborhood. We moved here over two years ago and are still just learning who most of you are. The Exchange would offer regular opportunities for families to gather, have a cup of coffee, go "shopping" and build a stronger community.
  • It's green! Eating locally doesn't get any more local than this. Our garden foods are mostly organic by default, with little or no chemical input, no risk of food borne illness, no growing in depleted factory-farm soils, and no shipping, so health benefits and nutrients are maximized and "carbon footprint" is minimized -- something we can all feel great about.
  • It's economical! Farmer's market quality produce costs a bundle. Shave a little off your Whole Foods bill by trading some of the figs you don't have time to eat for some of the tomatoes and zucchini your neighbor doesn't have time to eat. Less waste for all concerned!
I'm envisioning twice-monthly "swap meets" where people meet to trade surplus garden items, less or more depending on interest and season. (We'd organize it to ensure that someone with an overflow of summer grapes could exchange it for winter grapefruits later on, etc) With enough interest, I'd create a website and/or print newsletter with relevant info (calendar, contact sheet, recipes, whatever!) and we could even include a couple of fun events such as a late-summer party (potluck, of course!) held at a central location. If you think you might be interested in this idea, please drop me an email at amy@greacen.com or leave a note in the mailbox at 1154 Robles Court. Let me know where you live and what's overproducing at your house. If enough of us want to participate, I will be more than happy to organize it.

Hope to hear from lots of you!

category = FRUITBLOG
tagses = FRUIT BLOG, HELLO WORLD.,