Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bountiful blackberries of August

The blackberry bushes are groaning, heavy with fruit during this last week of August. It was amazing to watch the progression of ripening this year, from small green berries transforming to a soft pink then continually deepening in colour and growing in size. We have two areas of our property covered with dozens of bushes; the first is along the path leading to our beach and a second massive bush growing over the rock wall between our back lawn and our west field. Kerry and I had to severely cut back the unbearing "sucker" branches, which stretched out up to fifteen feet in some spots, in order to reach the branches with fruit.

Amazing the difference in size --and flavor---of the small blackberries growing in the sun down on the path to our beach versus those growing in the shade over the rock wall. The smaller berries, growing by the beach got 2 months of sun and are super sweet, the large ones, which grew slowly in the shade, are tart, juicy and dissolve on your tongue. They are so big, they are falling off the vine into your hands when you touch them. So big, they look grape-like. 

On the large bush, growing over the old stone property-dividing wall, the berries are in all stages of ripeness, from huge and plump and ready to pick to small and green and weeks ago from enjoying. 

We had a family picking session last night with Max, dad, Kerry and cousin Miles. Everyone got a little pricked by the long, thorny vines last night, as we all reached for the biggest, juiciest looking berries. Talking with my friend Kathy, last night, she was in the midst of making blackberry jelly with some of the berries she picked at her family's cottage. As Miles said, "Blackberries taste like summer."

One has to practically climb into the prickly bushes in order to reach some of the ripest berries. 
Pants and long sleeves are required.

--Monica Forrestall

Monday, August 9, 2010

The surprising gourmet delights of a small town farmer's market

To market, to market to buy....buttery and flaky chocolate croissants made by a French baker, organic string beans and beets by a female farmer committed to producing great vegetables, new potatoes, a pecan pie and some amazing, locally roasted coffee beans...when did our local farmer's market get so deliciously veggies, fruit and beyond?

Just a few years ago, Annapolis Royal's Farmer's Market (in its 30th year) seemed to be mainly produce, flowers and a vendor with organic beef, but these days the varied and down-right delicious vendors offer everything from baked goods (Max can't pass up the chocolate croissants) to roasted coffee beans that make the smoothest, most delicious coffee to a man who has a table of folk-arty birdhouses he fashions using old license plates. 
My market bag in the car, loaded with my Saturday morning shopping; new potatoes, organic beets, a baguette, a pecan pie, and a bag of ground coffee beans. 
I read recently (in the Locavore book I devoured) that Farmer's Market's, in the smaller Canadian communities, have begun to be the social gathering place that churches used to be. 

Getting to market early is of prime importance if you have something in mind that you absolutely want---the fresh blueberry pies ($3 each!!!!!) go FAST, and there is a lineup at the bread baker's table at least 4 people long till everything sells out. Some surprising items are two tables of local winemakers wines; one who specializes in fruit wines and a second who makes fabulous whites and dessert wines. 
One runs into everyone there, and after people have secured their goods, they stroll about and catch up with friends. As much as I love the farmer's market in our Tribeca neighbourhood, it is nothing compared to this market, where I can even buy a jar of homemade Jewel jam (made of four local fruits) from a girl I used to waitress with in my college days (delicious Sandy!). Getting to support local farmer's and artisinal food makers makes every thing I buy, that much sweeter to eat. I love it!