In the last two weeks at the West Madison research garden, we’ve taken the vegetable jungle-beds and demolished them into flat black squares. Second Harvest, the food bank, took all it could take, and still more was left over. I ran out to the lettuce beds when I saw Al destroying them, throwing myself in front of the tiller because he couldn’t hear me yelling over it. I came back with an armful of greens, almost more than I could eat and nothing compared to what went under.
The plants are there to be tested: new varieties from breeders, new techniques; the harvest is an afterthought. I love that so much goes to the food bank, but they can’t take everything. Gardener Brian hates to see food go to waste as much as I do. He comes to work telling tales of epic canning sessions, the coffee he drinks to stay awake while he processes the next round. Yesterday he challenged me to take a Rubbermaid tote full of windfall apples. What was I thinking?
I gave W. dibs on the apples, but graduate school is getting in the way of his plans for a cider press. So I’ll be busy this weekend. I’m still searching for the perfect apple butter recipe, one aligned with my number-one priority:
This includes recipes that include the words “peel,” “sieve,” or “constant stirring.”
But first, boss Judy has assigned me a task: experiment with grape butter. I boycotted grape juice for years, finally long enough that I can dissociate fresh Concords from Welch’s and Manischewitz. Even better would be grape butter from my favorite variety, NY76, which tastes of perfumed honey.
But the Concords are ready now … unlike the little ones at the farmer’s market, these were big and midnight blue, like new moons with slipskins. The grape butter cooks for four hours, until it doth suffer a sea change, into something new and strange—and everything in my kitchen is splattered purple.