Saturday, August 15, 2009

Farm Bulletin: PIty The Farmer's Wardrobe

Farmers have been looked on by city dwellers as simple folk who work the land. Contributor Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm explains that we may be judging those particular books by their covers and not what lies between their pages. You can review the quality of their texts, as well as buying some of their berries, at the Hillsdale Farmers' Market every Sunday from 10 am till 2 pm.

As blackberry growers, we have to let our sartorial standards ease a bit at berry harvest. Berries have a way jumping onto clothing. One day Carol went to pick up the mail at the post office. An older woman approached her, pressed a quarter in her hand and said, quietly, "I hope this helps." We had just finished the harvest of 15,000 pounds of berries, and Carol was covered with berry juice. Anthony mulled over the situation and quipped that two bits seemed a bit stingy given the dire straights of her wardrobe. Can't even buy a Peppermint Patty with that.

He had his experience this week. After delivering fruit to the soda master at Hot Lips Pizza, he dropped into a store to pick up a couple of books. Innocent stuff, a book on grains and a lovely used edition of Nathaniel Hawthorne's Twice Told Tales, as selected by Wallace Stegner. The clerk eyed him suspiciously and asked for picture ID. Unusual for such a small purchase. Later, he discovered the front of his trousers were stained with blackberry juice from lifting the crates out of the van. Probably also explained why the panhandlers clustered by the entrance had left him alone both entering and leaving. When he picked up milk at New Seasons, the clerk smiled and asked if he was a berry grower.

Speaking of Hot Lips, they now have on tap our loganberries. It is a stunning soda. Loganberries were once the most popular berry in the country, and they deserve a revival. The sodas are brewed by Greene Lawson, and he does a masterful job with our fruit. (The lad brews a good home beer, too.) The loganberries we delivered were the first to ripen, and Greene deftly preserved their spritely nature. It was a small run, so be sure to try it before the barrels run dry, especially if you love the loganberry as much as we do.

The early fruits on caneberries have higher pectin and acid levels. Our preserves are always from the first run of fruit, and that is why we don't need to add pectin. Interestingly, some people regard preserve making as a good use of "B-grade" or inferior fruit. We fail to understand why anyone would invest the time and money to make preserves and then use inferior fruit. Older fruit has lower pectin levels, so you have to add it. That added pectin dulls the already attenuated acidity of the fruit. What makes fruit interesting are the complex acids that stimulate the palate. You can add sugar, a dull lot in our estimation, but you can never reclaim those lost organic acids.

Later fruit has its own charm, but it is different. This is especially true in September when the shorter ripening days slow down the field. The Chester has such a long season that even in a good year only half of the fruit will ripen.

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