Monday, September 21, 2015

Meatless Monday: A Sweet Bite from the Ark of Taste

Now that Fall is suddenly in the air family outings switch from the beach to “Pick-Your-Own” venues.  Here in New England the peach season is pretty much over, but raspberries are still plentiful and apple season is beginning. Many of the venues, including my favorite Bishop’s Orchards, have “orchard” in the name and offer other attractions like corn mazes, petting zoos, and pie. It is easy to find a Pick Your Own venue near you by visiting the Pick Your Own website, where you can find local listings for Pick Your Own (PYO) farms in the US, Canada, Britain and various other locations around the world. 

On a trip to the West last month I had the opportunity to visit a PYO farm, not the “orchard” with which I am most familiar, but rather a “ranch” in Santa Cruz county near Salinas, on the way from Silicon Valley to Monterey. Gizdich Ranch in Watsonville, CA is a family operation, established in 1937. To reach it you turn off Hwy 101 and travel along dusty roads running through commercial berry operations with names I recognized from my supermarket produce aisles back home. 

Gizdich Ranch grows a variety of berries: Olallieberries (June), Boysenberries and Blackberries (Mid June to July), and Strawberries (May-September). Apples: September (3 weeks).They grow 16 varieties of apples but only Red Delicious, Newton Pippins & Golden Delicious are U-pick for 3 weeks in September.

That hot Sunday in late August we were not, however, looking to pick produce. We were in search of the Gizdich’s famous pies. We ended up buying two – one  Very Berry and one Apricot, and sampling a couple of pieces a la mode while we were there. The pie was great, but I was even happier to discover that Gravenstein apples were available in the farm store. I bought a few to enjoy on our family trip. Small in size, they proved to be crisp and both tart and sweet in one bite. Gravensteins ripen in late July, making them one of the earliest varieties of apple to come to market in North America. They are a wonderful all-around apple — excellent to eat and great for pie and sauce.

Gravensteins are an heirloom variety, once a very important part of the economy of the CA coast from Monterey to the Russian River. With 17th century origins in Denmark, they were first planted in Sonoma County in the early 1800s by Russian trappers. There were thousands of Gravenstein orchards in the state by the early 1900s, and the Gravenstein processing industry was born. During WWII applesauce and dried apples from Sebastopol Gravensteins fed the American troops. 

However, Gravensteins have short stems making them difficult to harvest, and they do not store well. Thus many of today's growers have opted to replace them with other varieties.

The wine industry has posed another threat to apples in general. In 2005 low Food USA added the Sebastopol Gravenstein Apple to its Ark of Taste catalog of “delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction” stating, “This fruit is also losing out because of an alarming loss of land, as many orchards are being converted to vineyards or rural estates. During the past six decades, Sonoma County’s Gravenstein orchards have declined by almost 7,000 acres and are currently down to 960 acres. There are only six commercial growers remaining in Sonoma County. Together, their crop totals 15,000 tons of Gravenstein Apples a year.” 

The Sebastopol Gravenstein Apple Presidium formed to promote and protect the farmers who grow these delicious apples. You can read more about it here

Long story short, as far as I know, there are no Gravenstein orchards near me, and I was happy to have the chance to sample an Ark of Taste item and to support an Ark of Taste farmer. For more on the Gravenstein apple, read this NPR blog by Nicole Spiridakis from 2013 (apple recipes included) For other endangered foods from around the world, check out the Ark of Taste catalog. 

Happy Meatless Monday. Have a great week.

On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

Thursday, September 10, 2015

On My Radar 9.10.15

Upcoming September 2015 Events in New Haven (#GSCIA)

Get your Green on, New Haveners! You have no excuse for staying home with the plethora of mostly free events coming up. Some days are so event-full that it will take some planning on your part to hit them all. 

Here you go, in chronological order, starting with this Saturday. 

Saturday, September 12
8-10 am, Quinnipiac Meadows Nature Preserve
1040 Quinnipiac Avenue
Free Event. Sponsored by the New Haven Land Trust
According to the Land Trust, “It's a great time of year to observe hawks and other migrating birds! Bird expert and past president of the New Haven Bird Club Mike Horn will be giving a guided walk at our Quinnipiac Meadows Nature Preserve this Saturday. All are welcome (except out-of-control children). Rain or shine! If you have them, bring binoculars and see you there!”

Also this Saturday…

Saturday, September 12
GREEN EXPO (11 am -5 pm) 
CT FOLK FESTIVAL (11 am -10 pm) – 10 Years Young!
Edgerton Park, located off Whitney Avenue near the Hamden-New Haven town line. Free Admission!  The full program and list of participants is available here. 

Monday, Sept 14
7:30 PM, BAR, 254 Crown Street, New Haven
New Haven Green Drinks meets at a special day and time in order to participate in TRANSPORTATION on TAP, hosted by goNewHavengo, the group that asks you to “Think outside the car.” Eat pizza, drink beer, and learn about transportation in New Haven. Attendees must be 21 or over.

Tuesday, September 15 - Tuesday, December 1
(with a few exceptions)
5:30 - 7:30 PM
DIVERSE VOICES: Environmental Leaders on Climate Change and the Environment
Kroon Hall, 195 Prospect Street, New Haven
The public is invited and welcome to attend this series of lectures offered as FES810 at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. More here. FREE.

The event-full Saturday, September 19 kicks off with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to walk or bike across the soon to be opened new southbound Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge.

Saturday, September 19
10 am - 3 pm
on the new Southbound Q-Bridge
Access provided at the intersection of Hamilton Street and Ives Place.
Only pedestrians and bicycles will be allowed on the bridge. The event planners promise family-friendly activities, refreshments, stunning views, and great photo opportunities. More information here

From there it’s just a hop and a skip over to the 6th annual East Rock Festival…

Saturday, September 19
11 am - 7 pm
Orange Street between Willow Street and Cottage Street
This free festival celebrates all the East Rock neighborhood has to offer with food vendors, live music, demos, kids’ activities, and information on area non-profits.

And, if you plan it right, you can quench your thirst for a good cause…

Saturday, September 19
4-7 pm
Fred Cervin Bioregional Garden
608 Whitney Avenue
A fundraiser for the New Haven Land Trust. Standard ticket is $30.00 in advance. Support community gardening, environmental education, and nature preserves. More information is available here

Friday, September 25
5:30 pm (ish) at the flagpole on the New Haven Green
Critical Mass is a cycling event held on the last Friday of every month. Part of the worldwide Critical Mass movement, New Haven's “Kinder and Less-Critical Mass” is a monthly celebration of bicycling. The ride is generally slow; length may vary. The size of the group can reach 200 in the summer months! 

There ought to be something in here for just about everybody. Get up. Get out. Go New Haveners, Go!