Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Bugs in the Berry Patch

  "Watch out for bees," Kate said. "They love the raspberries."
  I jerked my hand back from a berry out of which two large bees crawled free and flew off. "I noticed. Well."
  Kate chuckled. All through the patch, the hum of honeybee wings created a steady drone. They were everywhere. Now, I'm not one to be afraid of bugs, but there were quite a few bugs present that day.
  There were the honeybees, of course. Fuzzy little things with orange abdomens and black stripes and, of course, painful stingers.
  And then there were the Japanese Beetles. Their hard shells were dark but decorated with a rainbow of color, as if the light of a prism had fallen across their back and stuck there.
  And the Picnic Beetles. Teeny tiny bugs with black shells bearing an orange stripe across it. Now these ones I have a particular dislike towards, due to the fact (and I recount this story often) that one of them bit me on the tongue as I was trying to eat a raspberry. How was I to know the poor fellow was in there? It wasn't my fault.
  Last but not least was the new scourge to the Orchard Family Farm. Asian Beetles. See, they're tricky, because while they look very much like ladybugs, their shells are tainted rust orange instead of red. And they bite. What else do they do? Well, they eat crops.
  Like raspberries.
  The sun shone down on Kate and I and the bugs with nary a cloud in the sky to hamper the warmth. This, at least, made up for the bug infested raspberry patch. Ah, sunshine...
  The reason the patch was so bug infested in the first place was mostly due to the high tunnel. The berries in there were the biggest, juiciest, most amazing raspberries you've ever tasted. Beautiful! There were so many, too! Handfuls and handfuls of them, like delicious pink jewels hiding amidst the leaves.
  Unfortunately, because of this bounty, the high tunnel took priority. And since there are only so many workers on the Orchard Family Farm, the patch just outside the high tunnel did not get picked nearly as often as it used to. So when Kate and I grabbed a handful of halfpint containers and started our safari through the canes, we found many of the berries either overripe, or overeaten.
  However, that warm Almost-Autumn day, after a couple hours dilligent scouring, we still came away with several full halfpints of lovely berries rescued from the clutches of various types of mandibles, and not a single sting to show for it.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Tomato Named George and What Befell Him

The whole kitchen smelled like tomatoes. Real tomatoes. And not just red ones. In a bowl next to a pot of boiling water on the stove were yellow tomatoes, orange tomatoes, purple (yes, purple) tomatoes, big ones, little ones, medium ones. Rosie grabbed them with the tongs and dropped them into the water, one by one. Then she put the lid on.

Five minutes. Then off came the lid, out came the steaming tomatoes, and Rosie dropped them into a bowl of ice cold water sitting in the sink. Immediately the hot skins started curling away from the flesh of the tomato. With the help of Rosie's friend, Tru, I peeled off the skins piece by piece. Soon I held a completely naked tomato in my hand. It dripped with water, slimy against my fingers. And not all the tomatoes Tru and I peeled stayed together, so sometimes we ended up with shapeless globs of tomato flesh plopped onto the tray next to the sink. Most of them did stay together, however, and lay exposed on the tray waiting to be crushed and poured into various bags for freezing.

Pippin, who was in charge of retrieving and emptying the tray so we could fill it up again, also brought over the unboiled, unpeeled tomatoes and set them in the bowl for Rosie.

"That one's George," She said, pointing to a particularly round, red-orange tomato. "Be nice to him."

Taking the tray away, she left us blinking at each other in confusion. We all peered at poor George the unlucky tomato, but figured that, being a tomato, it was his chief end to either rot in the field or end up in a pot. Ending up in a pot seemed a far nicer fate, all things considered. So in he went.

George did squeal a little more than the other tomatoes in the hot water. And his skin was a little bit harder to get off. He had to go into the boiling pot twice before he finally relented let us peel him. Then he sat in the corner with his unnamed brothers to await his fate.

We all accepted calling the silly thing George. He seemed to have earned a name, sitting there in sulky defiance of his ultimate fate. The rest seemed more or less accepting of their destiny. (Whether more, or less, is hard to tell. Being deprived of their skins would presumably make it difficult to manage any sort of significant expression to indicate their thoughts on the matter.)

Regardless, however, he still ended up in a ziploc bag in the freezer just like all the other tomatoes. All together the messy, repetitive assembly line of tomato processing took us five girls (and Mom) two hours to complete the whole bushel. Now we have a freezer full of fresh frozen tomatoes we can add to chili, spaghetti, lasagna, and whatever else suits our fancy. Our food tasted wondrously better because of it. You see, farm grown tomatoes have much richer flavors than canned tomatoes from the store. It's very distinct, and although a touch unusual at first, it quickly becomes acceptable. And for us, far more desirable.

I think in the end George was okay with that.