• Lavender, Cherries And Loquats

    cherry14cherry1The new arrivals are coming fast here at the farm. Another warm stretch brought out the Black Tartarian cherries, along with a few Vans. The rest of the Vans will be ready in a few days and the Bings should be ripe in a week or two. We love all the cherries but the small sweet/sour Tartarians are a real treat. We got them as part of a grafted “pollinator” tree, but the fruit turned out to be a real bonus. We like to cook and mix drinks with cherries, but we usually eat the first batch out of hand. This bowl of cherries is no exception.

    cherry15cherry3Meanwhile, the lavender is just starting to pop. That means bees, bees and more bees. The bees, honeybees and native bees, simply love the lavender. They will work the lavender all summer and the flowers will move and buzz all day when the sun is out. It never, never gets old- for us, or the bees.

    cherry4cherry2And we have loquats. Lots of loquats. We need to do something with them (marmalade?) this year. We know they are getting ripe, as the woodpeckers and squirrels come calling for the fruit. The woodpeckers are cool, the squirrels, not so much. The woodpeckers just take ripe fruit, we can live with that. The squirrels take a bite and drop the unripe fruit. Varmint.

    cherry9cherry10cherry11Otherwise, the garden and orchard are always in (slow) motion. Plenty of blueberries and strawberries. Raspberries will be ready tomorrow. The figs are ripening. Apples, pears, peaches and nectarines are all growing, and probably need thinning. The nasturtiums and squash are in bloom and there are tiny yellow flowers on the tomatoes. The eggplant even recovered from a serious beating (eating?) by the snails. And the roses are still roses. Have a few…

    cherry6cherry7cherry8

  • Simple Garden Recipes: Maraschino Cherries And Sweet Refrigerator Pickles

    Homemade maraschino cherries.

    Sweet refrigerator pickles.

    The bounty of summer often comes with a vexing question that basically boils down to, “what am I supposed to do with all of this stuff?!?” Wether you garden, join a CSA, shop the farmers market or simply succumb to the temptations of a roadside fruit stand, when we get summer fruits and veggies we tend to get a lot of them. All at once.  And not all produce stays fresh for very long. Abundance can have a (very slight) downside.

    Now possibly the best answer to this “challenge” is to share with friends, assuming they aren’t already overwhelmed with their own produce. But when generosity fails, preservation is the next step. Now if you want to get serious about preservation, we suggest you visit Wifemeetslife for an intro to canning- Alison has some great posts. And if you want to add some booze into the mix, then we suggest a visit to Boozed + Infused, where Alicia makes incredible fruit-based infusions.

    We can’t keep up with Alison and Alicia (although we are trying) but we do often use some short-term preservation techniques to extend our produce. For our cherries we make quick “maraschino” cherries and for cucumbers we make refrigerator pickles. Both are easy to make and extend the life of our produce by a few weeks. Oh, and both taste great.

    Just cherries and Maraschino liqueur.

    Just a quick simmer, then jar and chill for two days.

    As for the maraschino cherries, we take our end-of season cherries, lightly cook them in maraschino liqueur and then pop them in the fridge and let them macerate for two days and then the are ready and will last for a few weeks. While sour cherries may be the ideal, we use Bings or Vans and they are very tasty. Contrary to the bright pink, overly sweet store-bought maraschinos, home-made maraschino cherries are just a touch sweet with a bit of tartness and some crunch. The liqueur adds some lovely nutty flavors to the cherries. And they are not particularly boozy. We put the cherries in cocktails, on top of ice cream, between layers of cakes (yum) and simply eat them out of hand. Good stuff and a good excuse to buy one more basket of cherries (and add some maraschino liqueur to your bar).

    Cucumbers, onion, vinegar, sugar, salt and spices. Simple.

    As for the sweet refrigerator pickles, we love our cucumbers fresh, or in quick pickles, but we like this recipe so much it is one of the main reasons we grow cukes and buy a lot at the farmers market. Making these pickles is a snap. Simply cut up some pickling cucumbers (Kirbys are good here) and a bit of onion and then quickly/lightly cook in a solution of brown sugar, vinegar, salt and spices. Let the mixture cool and then put it in the fridge, the pickles will keep for about 10 days, but they won’t last that long. The pickles are sharp, sweet and crunchy with just a touch of spice. We eat them out of hand but also put them on sandwiches or serve them with burgers and hot dogs at cookouts. We also chop the pickles up into a quick relish- so good. And our kids love them, so it is a good way to get a few more veggies in their diet. Continue reading

  • Cherry Clafoutis

    Cherry clafoutis.

    Nothing makes us happier than growing, cooking, eating and sharing our own food. But there is a slight tyranny to the seasons. If you have cherries, you are cooking with cherries, period. And our Bing cherries are at their peak, so we picked them all. One small tree gave us four large bowls of cherries…all at once. Happily, cherries lend themselves to all sorts of dishes and cocktails (and we do seem to like eating and drinking). So this week you may see cherries in all sorts of dishes. But for now, let’s start with a classic cherry dessert, clafoutis.

    Fresh Bing cherries form our orchard.

    Clafoutis is a French dessert that combines cherries baked in a light batter, often with some added almond flavor. Think of the batter as “flan-meets-pancake” and you can get an idea of the light, yet rich, texture that rightfully lets the cherries star in the dish. Originally clafoutis featured sour or black cherries with the pits still in. Supposedly the pits add extra almond-like flavor, but as we have Bing cherries and like our teeth, we put pitted Bing cherries and almond extract in our clafoutis. You can also use this basic recipe with other stone fruits or berries, but if you want to be technical it would then be a flaugnarde, but feel free to call it a clafoutis- we won’t tell anyone.

    A cherry-pitter is a useful tool if you like cherries as much as we do.

    As for the recipe, clafoutis is a classic dish and there are many recipes out there. We chose to adapt an Alice Waters recipe that adds a few extra steps, but also adds extra flavor. In this case we season and pre-bake the cherries before we add them to the clafoutis. The extra cooking improves the flavor and texture of the cherries, but also leaves behind the base of a syrup you can reduce and drizzle on top of the clafoutis at service. Good stuff. We also prefer to cook clafoutis (and many desserts) in individual ramekins, we think it looks good and makes leftovers easier to handle, but a large baking dish works for this recipe as well.

    Season the cherries for pre-baking.

    Extra cooking for more flavor and better texture- plus you get cherry juice for a sauce.

    Place a layer of cherries in the ramekins or baking dish.

    Assembling the clafoutis is a pretty easy affair. Pre-cook the cherries, save the syrup, butter your baking dish(es), place the fruit in the dishes, make and add the batter and bake. The batter is the only part of the recipe that requires some extra effort, you need to whip egg whites and then fold them into the batter for the right texture. The clafoutis bakes for about 20 minutes at 375 degrees. While the clafoutis bakes, reduce your cherry syrup for a tasty and pretty sauce. When the clafoutis is done, add the sauce, dust with powdered sugar and serve.

    Make the batter.

    Pour batter over the cherries.

    Bake until browned and puffed. Continue reading

  • Orchard Update: Cherries And Raspberries!

    Early Van Cherries

    Nature always surprises us. This year we expected hoped to get a good crop from the orchard and berry patch, but did not expect much until June and beyond. But as we had our first warm snap, the raspberries and cherries (at least some of them) decided that now is the time- and we have fruit! Awesome. Just awesome. I won’t lie, we both started giggling like bad movie villains as we tasted the cherries, they were such a surprise we felt like we were getting away with something. And since we beat the birds to the cherries, I think we did!

    The cherries “hide” under the leaves, you need to look closely to find them

    The early cherries we have are Vans, a bright red, “sweet” cherry. The taste is sweet, but with a little tartness for balance. The flesh is dense and with a bit of pleasant crunch. Good stuff and perfect for simply eating out of hand (or in a Cherry Fling Cocktail). The Van is a great cherry to have in the orchard as it will pollinate with any cherry variety and is itself a good pollinator of other cherries. (If you really want to get into it, the Rainer cherry is a mix between the Bing and Van cherries, not sure what you can do with that, but there you go…). The tree in the photo is a hybrid tree with Van and Black Tartarian cherries grafted to the same trunk. It is somewhat odd to see one branch with ripe cherries and one with very green cherries, but this just means our cherry season lasts longer. We can live with that. Meanwhile our Bing cherry tree is covered with green fruit that is just starting to ripen, we can’t wait.

    Golden raspberries

    As for the berries, our golden raspberries also came in early. We always get a good, sustained yield from the bushes, but did not expect them so soon. The golden raspberries are simply an albino variety of  red raspberries. Neither of us can remember why we went with golden raspberries, but they are sweet and tasty, just like a red raspberry. And they certainly are pretty with their gold and rose colors. These berries rarely make it out of the orchard or garden. We simply pull a few and eat them as we work, a nice treat through the summer.

    Red raspberry blossom

    Continue reading

  • Orchard Update: The Battle Begins!

    Loquats on one of our older trees. The squirrels love these. We will use them in chutney-like preparations.

    Spring is the season of hope. And just as the winter citrus crop is gone, we move to the orchard. And this year the orchard is looking very hopeful with cherries, peaches, nectarines, plums, loquats, apples and pears all off to a good start. The big question is not if we will have a good crop, the question is who will get to enjoy it- us or the varmints? I hope we get to enjoy the fruit, but the rascally rodents of Putney Farm will certainly come calling, and we will have a fight on our hands. We hope we win.

    Orange Blossom and happy honeybee. Citrus season is pretty much over.

    While we have our share of pests to fight in the garden, the orchard is a totally different deal. The garden is partly caged with raised beds and wire mesh to fight the gophers, moles, etc. We fight the bugs organically, and it works pretty well. In the orchard, we are also (mostly) organic, but it’s a full-on battle. Birds, squirrels, wood rats, gophers and all sorts of blights go after our trees and fruit with gusto. And once the fruit is even close to ripe, the hordes will descend upon us. We get better every year at protecting the crop (and yes that means killing a bunch of gophers and wood rats), but we are far from victory.

    Early peaches showing some color.

    But for now, all is beautiful. When we first venture into the orchard, it is hard to see the fruit, but suddenly we see dozens, sometimes hundreds of small peaches, plums and cherries. The colors are just developing and the fruits are small, but we  just know how good the fruit can be. It makes us smile, every time. Continue reading

  • Blossoms, Buds, Blueberries and Bees

    Gravenstein apple blossom.

    Spring is here, and while I can wax semi-poetic about the season, it is best to let nature (and Carolyn’s photos) do the talking. Our fruit trees and berries are blossoming and even fruiting! Here is a photo-tour of the progress to date:

    Heritage pear blossom.


    Heritage pear blossom #2.


    Heritage pear blossom #3.

    Continue reading