Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Roadside garden

When I was a kid in the city, choke cherries and crab apples were curiosities, or at best an occasional treat. They were few and far between as well.
The was a rumor around my group of friends that if you ate choke cherries and drank milk, the milk would sour in your stomach and you would vomit. So naturally we used to dare each other to do it.
It never worked.
I don't know how the rumor got started. Likely someone's mother said "don't eat those choke cherries. You just had milk" and we extrapolated the rest. Who knows. Needless to say, something you eat only on a dare is not a food you relish.
Always wear your hat outdoors mother said. Luckily I listened. I came back with my hat full of blackberries.

Crab apples I genuinely loved. Once when I was nine, an older boy in the neighborhood came back from a camping trip with a knapsack full of green apples. Three of us sat for about two hours on his back veranda with a salt shaker and that knapsack, and had a feast.
This year we had a really warm summer, lots of humid days, and a fair bit of rain. It was a banner year for the roadside garden.
So far we have made choke cherry wine, choke cherry jelly, rhubarb strawberry wine, blackberry jelly, cranberry jelly. There are still three bags of chokecherries in the freezer, enough for more jelly and a batch of chokecherry/grape wine this time.
I also found a beautiful new (to me) crab apple tree, with a variety of apple I have never had before.  Fantastic just to eat, even without salt. Next year I plan to revisit that tree and try my hand at crab apple wine. We have eaten sugarplums too, the ones the dogs didn't get first. Some folks call them Saskatoon berries or service berries. Around these parts, we, like our neighbors in Michigan's UP, call them sugar plums.
These beauties grow in the next county, five minutes from home

This past weekend we went for a drive on St Joseph Island, 20 minutes or so from home. We were searching for cranberries and crab apples and we weren't disappointed.
A big mess o' cranberries simmering on the stove.

So get out there and explore the roadside garden. There is a ton of delicious food there. Sure it takes a fair bit of labor, and some sugar and pectine. But you didn't plant it, you don't have to weed it, you haven't stressed about it, you've lost no sleep worrying that hail or hoppers would get it before harvest.
All it asks of you is that you stop and enjoy it. And appreciate it. Is that so much to ask?


Trase said...

We actually have two crabapple trees on our property, and unfortunately, I have let the apples go to the deer these past two years since we moved in, becaue I haven't been sure what to do with them. I should get some recipes from you! :)

Goat-ama said...

I will hunt up the recipe for ginger-spiced crab apple jelly for you!

Maybe we should put together a general recipe exchange somehow. We have lots of recipes to share and we are always open to new ones.

Judith van Praag said...

Here in Seattle harvesting fruit that grows in parking strips along the sidewalk or in alleys results in jams as well. I've made apple sauce, Reine Claude plum jam and bramble jam. This this year jars are filled with ruby red plum jam.
A stick in the ground of our own front yard grew into a fine fig tree and now I've frozen fig compote that'll be great for pie.
Love your blog. When I was seven my parents and I moved from Amsterdam to the country up north and we had what you call a hobby farm, although there was a bit more at stake for them it seems, what with the larger animals in the menagerie.

Goat-ama said...

Hey, thanks for the nice words.
I really envy you, having figs and plums in your roadside garden!