Tag Archives: farming

Sipping on Sun Eggs

The day pretty much began like this: me, contemplating a golden fruit.

Elsa Beskow’s rendering of a Sun Egg

Last month I spent a week in Arizona, visiting my grandma with some of my lovely siblings. My grandparents moved south several years ago, and while I deeply miss their old lakeside home in Madison, the new roost does have something I like very much. A grapefruit tree. Fully laden. Just outside the window. Needless to say, one day we filled a bucket, and got to work.

Confession: I am grapefruit junkie. In high school, my book bag clinked and clanked with the sound of glass knocking against glass. I tell you, it wasn’t because I was a boozer stealing the dregs from dusty misfit bottles of my parents’ Ouzo, Sherry, or Frangelica. It was the tell-tale sound of my three-a-day habit. Yes, I juiced.

And if that was not enough, I liked to smell like the sour citrus fruit, too. Yes, on my teen rovings downtown on State Street, I’d often find myself drawn into The Soap Opera, a beloved old apothecary of fragrant hippie delights. I liked to hang out around the sample dram display, sniffing various essential oils. Possibly muttering to myself in a British accent.

Contrary to popular belief (ahem), I did NOT wear patchouli. Much. But I did have more than one little dram-bottle of Forest Pine essence to complement my stash of Grapefruit oil, which I went through quick enough.

My bedroom then was at the end of a long hallway on a less insulated addition to our original ranch house. For some reason when we ripped out the hideous and diseased shag carpet, I got to pick my own carpet color. Silvery white. I then proceeded to leave my windows cracked in winter, and hang strings of glass icicles from the panes. My furniture was old, dark, antique oak, my bedding light blue and white…my posters of snowshoe hares, arctic foxes, and wolf packs. (Okay, and ultimately a six-foot-banner of Daniel Day-Lewis, the crown of my Last of the Mohicans shrine.) It is entirely possible I set a low base-temperature in there just to help entice the cats and dogs to cuddle with me more.

 My point is, Forest Pine is a pretty logical scent for a room that was meant to look like winter, and certainly felt like winter… so why the Grapefruit? Why the crisp, pucker-inducing scent of summery citrus, sun-bright and bee-kissed? Why here, in the white winter room?

I don’t actually have an answer to this, folks. Why does a teenager wear moccasins to school, get obsessed with Neil Young, guzzle Chocola, and dream of being an elf who rides wolves? (Or was that just me?) Because she likes to.

I really, really love grapefruits. I love watching my aunt peel them every year for the Christmas fruit salad. I love using that crazy jagged little spoon to root out their triangular segments. I love heating up the juice with hot water in the winter (really, try it), and mixing it with ice and Patron in the summer. And I really, really love drinking the fresh-squeezed juice.

Animals I have Known, Domestic Edition

Ingrid, in all her one-horned and tumor-backed glory
The Freshmaker
Thumper T. Bun
Gandy, the oldest sheep in the world
Billie Jean
 (she’s just a girl, who thinks I am the one)
A cow contemplates its own mortality

In Preserves is the Preservation of the World

Plums. So many, many plums.
Shiny happy tops, straight out of the 1950’s box.
Apricots in their sweet sugar bath.
Air bubbles: Search and Destroy.
Sticky fingers.
A taste of summer, for the rainy winter.

Vitis Vinifera

Wine. I love it. You love it. Bacchus loves it. But where does it come from?
Paul and Jacqui grow about seven acres of vines. They grow Sauvignon and Pinot grapes and are Bio-Gro Organic certified. Vineyards are planted in long rows that run north to south. Round about this time of year, it is time to leaf-pluck around the east-facing bunches. And so we spent some time walking down the rows, thinning select leaves to let the sun shine on the small, bright green Sauvignon bunches. You don’t thin on the west side because the sun gets too intense and the little guys can actually get sunburned, eventually cooking on the vine.
I can relate. My skin is forever greasy with thick layers of 85 proof sunscreen. The sun is more intense here. You can really feel it’s power. Sometimes I think it is trying to kill me. I could probably get sunburned my moonlight if I tried. It is a problem. But. I digress.
So you walk down the line, plucking a leaf here and there, enjoying the rhythm of the rustle and snap, letting the grapes get some, but not too much sun. Apparently these shaded grapes produce a taste rich in gooseberry flavors, while more tanned grapes give a sweeter, more tropical, passionfruitish flavor that is so desirable in Sauvignon Blancs.
Because they are organic, their vines are a bit wild. Some plants thrive in great leafy towers, tossing new vines out and up like shaggy arms raised to the sun. Some plants limp along, humble and yellowing, but still bearing fruit. Those vines get a little extra compost love. There is something friendly about the rows, something inviting. I found a birds nest in one. Perfect cup with five bright blue, speckled eggs inside.
This happy scene provides a stark contrast to the vines next door, over the fence, and all over the region. Sprayed with chemicals, beefed up then trimmed back, conventional vines seriously look like a crewcut green army, bulging with ‘roided out super vines. They look like they are marching, like they are coming to get you. Conventional Grapes hold on to more pesticides than other fruits and vegetables. They can be especially dirty with toxins. Big growers sometimes harvest their fruit too early, then spray it with sugar water to achieve maximum sweetness. And that’s just naaasty.
We all know this… but buy small, when you can. Buy organic.