Saturday, August 31, 2013

Farm Bulletin: Dropping the F-Bomb

No no no, not that f-bomb, the other one that gets bandied about whenever August's heat begins to be mitigated by temperatures in the mid-70s. Though it's hard to argue when that word is dropped by contributor Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm, since his partner, Ma Nature, is pretty much the decider when it comes to changing the seasons.

This weekend marks the sartorial end of summer, and we have had this feeling for a couple of weeks that autumn is close at her shoulder. It is almost as if the fruit is racing to beat the changing weather. As if to underscore this point, we sent our goodbye Chester note to the produce managers and stopped delivering the blackberries on Thursday because the fruit is too fragile to sit in a store display.

Au revoir, Chesters…

This is the earliest end to the Chester season in the 12 years we have been selling fresh market fruit, and the first time that it has fallen in August. We will have some at the market tomorrow, but treat them with care as they are very thin-skinned. Just as autumn leaves change color when the chlorophyll disappears, as the acids and pectins fade from the fruit different flavors come to the fore, and you might discern a hint of resin in the fruit. It is there in the fragrance as well.

Auf wiedersehen, frikeh…

Just as the swallows have departed the farm, the frikeh is gone, too. If time permits, we will grind some corn and start hauling in preserves again. We will have a lot of Astiana tomatoes for those who want to start putting some up for winter. Tomatillos, beets, onions and potatoes will join the cucumbers, garlic and shallots in the mix. The stone fruit will be represented by Prune d'Agen and Mirabelles. The pulses are the chickpeas.

Dean, and grape guy, Harvey Lee Price.

The grape of the moment is Price. We regard it as the Chester of the grapes. This berry came out of the breeding program at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. The grape has a complex and obscure lineage, perhaps with a bit of scuppernong or some other muscadine among its genes given its southern ancestry. The grape is named after Harvey Lee Price who was the Dean of Agriculture at the institute from 1908 to 1945. The flavor is complex and the delicate crunchy seeds have a delicious spicy flavor, so don't hesitate to chew them. As those who attended the ramble know, it is also a first class juice grape. Like Chester, Price is of its own kind—there is no confusing it with other grapes.

We will also have some seedless grapes on hand as well, including Jupiter and Interlaken. Along with Price and the plums, good fruit for the kids to take to school, or to nibble on as they ponder their first homework lessons. And let's hope summer keeps autumn at bay for a while longer.

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