Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Backyard gems

Last week a friend offered to get some figs for me and this is what he gave me. It may not look like much, especially to people who live in California and see tons of figs pass through the farmers' markets, but figs are a rare treat in Washington and I've come to love them for this.

For years, I'd put in my fig pleas to Wade Bennett of Rockridge Orchards. His farm is in Enumclaw (south of Seattle) and his fig crop was sold every year to chefs. His treasures never made it to farmers' markets,but I often hear about them because I talk to Wade at the University District market. One year when he finally had enough to sell me $40 worth, my father suddenly passed away and I was out of town when the figs were ready. The next winter we had crazy weather--a snow, that lasted for a week, then melt off, a freeze and another snow--and when I next saw Wade, he said he lost most of his well-established fig trees. The ice got into cracks in the trees and split them. What a sad lost harvest.

Last summer to revise the farm profiles in my cookbook, I traveled through Oregon and I found the best figs at the Eugene farmers' market from Grateful Harvest Farm (http://www.gratefulharvestfarm.com/) in Junction City. I have to admit figs were a big reason for including this farm in my revised cookbook--the sweet treasures attracted me to the farm booth and led to my talks with the farmer Charles Duryea. He says that one of the hardest things about organic farming is getting good fruit consistency year after year. His fig trees are under cover in a greenhouse, along with heirloom tomatoes that also need more warmth and sun. If I could think of a reason besides figs to drive to Eugene, I'd go get some of those sweet figs and savor them like a sunset. For those who live in the area--don't miss the sweet treasures from this farm!

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