Bay Area 2: Fruit and Vegetable Envy

25 Jul

While in Berkeley,  I was able to spend a lovely day with long-time family friends, and admire (ok, envy) their garden. It is a productive one–full of fruit trees and tomatoes and other vegetables–with not a rampaging dog in sight. The fruit trees–apple, fig, pear, persimmon, and plum–were all bearing fruit or on the verge of doing so, and the tomatoes were glistening. The sun was shining, the air was crisp, the birds were chirping–and everything I saw appeared jewel like. The contrast to my own garden was stark: the sun shines here, too, but the air is hot and thick, the neighborhood birds chirp only when the dogs are inside, I have no fruit trees, and my tomatoes have run wild (along with the zucchini plants–after just one week away, I came back to discover that two finger-sized zucchinis I had left behind were suddenly longer and thicker than my forearm–or anyone else’s forearm for that matter). Sigh.

But back to our friends’ garden. The photos below are of Satsuma plums, Seckel pears, and Sungold cherry tomatoes. This year was the first bearing year for the Satsuma plums, so jam making is on hold until next year when there is more of a crop. But how our friends will manage to set aside any plums for jam making is beyond me–I’d barely be able to get the plums from the tree to the kitchen without eating all of them. Perhaps when there are many, many plums to be had, the law of diminishing returns kicks in and people find the willpower to think longer term….

Satsuma plums

The Seckel pears also looked gorgeous, though I did not taste one since they were not quite ready to be picked. Last year was the first bearing year for the pears, so our friends ate what they harvested, gave some away, and did not have any left to store. This year, they will have a bumper crop and are trying to come up with a plan for what to do with them. Canning suggestions? Recommended pear recipes? We usually just eat them as they are or cut them into a fruit salad drizzled with a light honey-lime syrup. (Now that I think of it, I haven’t made that in a while; it would be perfect for a summer weekend brunch.) But I’d be happy to expand my pear repertoire if any suggestions come in.

Seckel pears

The Sungold cherry tomatoes really caught my eye. With multiple orbs of various colors (from green to gold to deep orange) hanging on each vine, they looked like garlands. There were also some Principe Borghese tomatoes in the garden, though I didn’t get a good photo. Those tomatoes are destined for sun drying — by pulling up the whole plant at the end of the season and hanging it upside down to dry in the sun. Our friend has not tried this before, but is counting down the days until she can conduct this natural experiment.  I’m counting down, too, since I’d like to know how that experiment works. My own non-cherry tomatoes have exploded (did I mention the 90+degree weather?), but my plants are not nearly as neat and tidy as their Berkeley counterparts because I didn’t know what I was doing when I planted them. The stakes I put in are not nearly tall enough, the space the tomatoes are in is too crowded (and there are roses there, too–a very bad idea of mine since thorns make tomato harvesting a tricky proposition). But, I may still try to sun dry some of the Romas, if I can get my act together and build a black box with glass lid in which to put them. Our neighbor in Australia did this every summer, and it worked like a charm.

Sungold cherry tomatoes

Until then, I will live vicariously through our friends, and wonder whether I can squeeze in a Satsuma plum tree somewhere in my own garden….

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