“For the month of September, Whidbey Island residents are challenged to do their best to eat foods only available within a 100 mile radius. Choosing foods produced as close to home as possible, reduces oil consumption, decreases our impact on the climate and environment, keeps our economy resilient and nurtures us with healthier lives.”
A writer by the name of Rhiannon posted a very nice write up on the local challenge:
“Do you know what I am doing right now? Making blackberry jelly. The beautiful deep magenta liquid is currently dripping its way through my jelly strainer. It smells luxurious right now in my house. I do not think there is any more intoxicating smell as the smell of fresh wild blackberries cooking down on my stove. But I am getting carried away here. Or maybe some of you understand. I have spent the last two weekends gleaning blackberries in what has been a prolific year for blackberries. I have picked 5 gallons so far. I am reminiscing now as the rains have begun again here on Whidbey Island. Fall is a few days away but I have felt it in the air for more than a week. The time of the blackberry is now passing and those few unreachable berries will now rot away. The ones I have been able to obtain will now serve a second short life as fruit leather, jelly and syrup. YUM. I may have picked my last blackberry for the year but today I quickly transitioned to the next fruit which will be smelling up my house for months to come. I gleaned 115lbs of the loveliest apples today.
Two years ago we had a simply stellar season for apples. The apples glowed like little candies on the branches. It soon became apparent our neighbors would be up to their knees in apples, so they gave us 50 lbs. Something in this gesture sparked a fire in our home and we thought we would ask a few other neighbors with trees what they were planning on doing with all their apples. We were surprised when their response was, “take them all, I won’t be picking them and I don’t want to be cleaning them up off my lawn.” Imagine that. All those trees…So the only logical thing was to go on a gleaning spree that left us with over 400 lbs. of apples. I was making apple based products for weeks. I had made apple sauce, apple butter, apple pie filling-canned and frozen- I even made my own apple pectin and I still had so many apples. This is when my hero arrived. A friend of a friend owned a cider press and he let us use it. The huge oak device was delivered to our house one evening and when I saw it, I was so relieved. We started tossing in all the remaining apples in the crusher and two days later we had 8 gallons of cider. We gave some away to a friend who helped with gleaning the last tree. I froze several gallons and we drank cider everyday. Eventually we were down to a gallon and half in our fridge and it became evident I needed to take this cider to the next level. I found a recipe for Apple Cider Jelly and got to work immediately. We have shared this golden jelly with many of our friends and it has been, by far, everyone’s favorite gift. Some of them are asking me now if I will be making it again. All the apples were saved. I kinda felt like some super hero gleaner.
And I am about to do it all over again. We have been checking in on our neighbors trees. They have all given us the go ahead to glean the trees again. We have about a week until I dive into apple-extravaganza 2011. I admit, I may be a little obsessed. When you live in a place like this, the food is practically growing everywhere, begging to be used, it is just hard for a person like me to ignore. But…it is a lot more interesting to eat that apple pie, close your eyes and see where that food used to live, and to remember how that tree practically threw that food at you as if to say, “I have grown this for you and your children, eat this so I can become a part of you and so you may grow too.” No apple from New Zealand has ever said anything so nice to me.”
We are getting ready to start orchard number two. As for blackberries on the island—best year ever.