Fresh fruit in the garden and what to do with it
This year I beat the deer and the birds to the apricots. Well, not all of them but enough to eat my fill and make one pie. My tree isn't terribly prolific but since I'm the only one in my family that's crazy about apricot pies, I only bake one a year and eat the other cots straight. If my crop is especially sparse, I supplement it with apricots from the farmers market to make the pie but I swear the ones from my tree are 10 times sweeter and juicier. Maybe because they're so fresh.
My family likes apricots but I'm the only one who loves them. Besides being delicious, apricots are low calorie and loaded with vitamin A, which is good for your skin and hair. Plus they're a good source of fiber and are full of potassium. I don't mean to sound like a spokeswoman for the apricot industry but I happen to love them and wish my family shared in my enthusiasm. Everyone does eat at least one piece of pie when it's fresh out of the oven - a la mode of course. But I was raised to love apricots.
My mother grew up on a fruit ranch in San Jose, where my grandfather raised apricots, cherries and plums. My Uncle Frank took over the ranch. When I was a little girl I spent many summer days at the ranch with my mother and older sister there they "cut cots" to be laid on the drying tables. I would play with my cousin Shirley, who is two years younger. Shirley and I would meander through the orchards until we reached the train tracks. We'd step up onto the track and walk carefully, one foot in front of the other, pretending to be tightrope walkers. When we heard the train coming we'd jump aside and as the train whizzed by we'd wave at the conductor and he'd wave back. I don't remember anyone ever once telling us, "Don't get hit by the train." It would have made me nervous to let my kids wander through an orchard by themselves and play on train tracks but parents had more faith in their kids back then.
Although we lived in a neighborhood we always had apricot and peach trees in our back yard, and my mother made apricot jam and pies each summer. Maybe that's why I love the pies so. When we first moved to our house off Livorna Road 28 years ago, my Uncle Frank planted an apricot tree in our back yard, down the hill that is otherwise mown weeds and a flagstone path. Then he stopped by every year and pruned it until we moved away for awhile. He died a couple of years ago at the age of 98.
Since Uncle Frank stopped ministering to it, the apricot tree hasn't done so well but we don't worry about it too much because we don't need a bigger crop just for me. I enjoy seeing the apricots appear each spring then grow increasingly colorful in the sunlight. I walk down the path to watch as my crop ripens. As the apricots turn golden, the birds begin to peck away at those at the top of the tree, and the deer eat all the low ones. I'm told the squirrels help themselves too, although I've never seen it. I try to pick the ones in the middle, and they sure taste good.
Some people have more fruits and vegetables growing in their yards than they can eat or give away. Anna Chan from Clayton, aka the Lemon Lady, has stepped in to help. Anna is somewhat famous for taking the extra produce from private gardens and delivering it to places like the Monument Crisis Center and the Food Bank. She has personally harvested or collected more than 6,000 pounds of local fruits and veggies throughout the county.
Anna now has local help, an Alamo woman named Mira Goetsch, who offered to collect surplus produce from her neighbors and deliver it. The two foodies ran into each other at Whole Foods Market in Walnut Creek and Anna began to tell Mira about growing gardens for the hungry.
"Half an hour later, Mira, with a generous spirit and glowing kindness, was inspired to also help those less fortunate," reported Anna at thelemonlady.blogspot.com. "A few miles between us, she living in Alamo, and I in Clayton, didn't hinder our ability to share ideas and coordinate to help the greater hunger cause. Rather, it is wonderful that Mira lives a few towns away! She is willing to pick up produce from her neighbors and outreach in Southern Walnut Creek, Alamo, Danville, San Ramon."
Mira has also delivered dozens of seedlings for donation to the Children's Community Garden of Concord, and others. If you want to make a fresh produce donation to Mira to be delivered to food pantries, call her at 216-1145 or e-mail Mira@mirahomes.com. Maybe next year I'll have surplus apricots.
-Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.