Saturday, July 7, 2007

The Simple Way to Good Fruit

Nina was making ice cream from red raspberries, and Jeff was doing prep work for lunch. The week at Swoon was starting, and the kitchen was busier than usual. It's not a good place to stand and talk because you feel like, or you actually are, in the way. Jeff suggested I go down to Montgomery Place Orchards, just south of Tivoli and Bard College on 9G. "That's where Nina gets all her fruit, and we should do something with them," Jeff said while wrapping a block of cheese he had just sliced. I headed south out of Hudson on Third Street, a quick jog on 23 and a left turn put me on 9G.

At the intersection of 9G and Route 199 is the Montgomery Place Orchards Farm Market, where there has been a farm stand since the turn of the last century. I found Telea Fincke in the back sorting fruit while her daughter, Caroline, was taking the seeds from red raspberries to make jam. Telea and Doug tend the orchards with heart, and people say their fruit tastes better than what they can get down the road. "If we could just teach our trees to have the fruit ready on the weekends," Telea explained, people who visit would be happier. We started to talk about the seasonal nature of local fruit and produce, and that people are accustomed to having seasonal items at non-seasonal times. "We could grown more, but the heart would go out of it. Doug likes to touch every tree."

Our conversation turned to the economics of growing and farming, and the relationship with the way people want to buy food. Telea is as passionate about educating people as she is about being involved in the whole process of growing fruit and veggies: selecting the right piece of land, the right variety of trees, planting, tending, harvesting, and finally selling at the stand. We talked about the economic bind farmers are in, having to constantly produce more to keep their cash flow going at a rate that will sustain their business, only to have the increased production drive down the prices making it harder the next year to stay in business. "But, how do you change it?" she asked.

I learned a lot, and I knew there was more to learn. I bought two pints of the black raspberries. I could tell there was more to them than just fruit from a roadside stand. As I headed north to Hudson, I realized that the only thing simple about this fruit was finding Montgomery Place Orchards Farm Market on 9G.

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1 comment:

Kathy said...

And what black raspberries they were! It makes you understand why canning was such a favorite activity in the past - anything to be able to enjoy local farm fruit year round. At this time of year, we love passing the big board at Love Apple Farm on 9H. They put up signs for the local produce they have in stock and new things are added every weekend as they ripen...cherries, raspberries, blueberries, cider, squash, ... one of these days I'll learn how to whip them up into exciting receipes. Until then, see you at Swoon!