Tuesday, August 15, 2006
The Pie Queen has been a travellin' country girl this summer, and what a happy thing that's been. Alas, due to family issues, I had to fly home from Portland last Friday rather than continuing on to Vermont to see Joyce Carrol Goats and friends, but the up side was spending several days out in the lovely rural environs of Orange County, NY, a couple hours west of NYC, where the Pie Queen Mother resides. As anyone who's read the sides of the trucks at the Union Square Greenmarket knows, Warwick, Pine Island and the surrounding towns are home to many of the area's best farms, thanks to the region's unique "black dirt"--a loam so rich and productive that it really is chocolatey-black--perfect for onions, carrots and other root vegetables in particular, but good for lettuce and basil and flowers too. Orchards dot the area, as do dairies. Up the road from the PQM's house is Nettie Ochs, an apple orchard with acres of trees and swell cider and cider doughnuts, along with the most jigsaw-puzzle-perfect view of American farmland that's you'd ever want to see. In the summer, they offer pick your own peaches, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and tomatoes--a siren call to the fruit-hunter's heart that beats dark and fierce in the breast of PQ.
So on a recent hot afternoon, I greased up with SPF30 and went out to pick, hunting down each perfect raspberry and squatting down to separate the powdery dark-blue ripe berries from their purply sour cousins on the little blueberry shrubs. I came home with a bag of peaches, a bag of sweet orange tomatoes, a quart of raspberries, and a handful of blues. Everything will be riper in a week or two, but the pickings were still there for the taking, if you didn't mind a search. I'd hoped to come back with enough raspberries for a few jars of jam, but they were so sweet and delicious, we simply ate them out of hand.