Category Archives: fruit trees

Grow a Little Fruit Tree

First class of 2015!! Because I’m teaching full-time at University of San Francisco, I’m not teaching regular classes at GhostTown Farm any longer. Such a bummer–but I can only do so much…However, the lovely, talented Ann Ralph of Berkeley Hort fame will be teaching a class at my place. It’s a pruning class and she will be going over all the aspects of growing fruit trees in backyards. She’s a big advocate of keeping trees small and manageable. Since we have over 30 trees on the farmlette right now, this is the perfect classroom to learn winter pruning by actually pruning my trees (please, don’t f- them up!!).

More details here; the GT Farm class is February 1!!!

East Harvest Pruning: Winter Workshop – $40
http://www.littlefruittree.com

Saturday, January 17, Oakland, 10:30 am -12:30 pm
Sunday, January 18, Berkeley, 10:30 am – 12:30 pm
Saturday, January 31, San Pablo,10:30 am – 12:30 pm
Sunday, February 1, GT Farm Oakland, 10:30 am – 12:30 pm
Sunday, February 8, Berkeley, 10:30 am – 12:30 pm

Preregistration is required.
Contact littlefruitree@gmail.com or (209) 296-5797

“I loved your workshop! The information, the clarity of your teaching style…all of it!”

Timed pruning offers a simple and revolutionary approach to fruit tree care: winter prune for shape and summer prune to keep trees small and easy. This hands-on class teaches the simple logic of pruning. You’ll learn the benefits of creating short trees, how to engage in the pruning conversation, make aesthetic decisions, and trust your judgment. The class includes information about seasonal fruit tree routines and pest and disease control with ample time for questions.

Instructor Ann Ralph’s book, Grow a Little Fruit Tree, about using pruning to fruit trees at people-appropriate heights, is newly available from Storey Publishing. She managed the fruit tree department at Berkeley Horticultural Nursery for ten years.

Fruit Tastings

Wolfskill. I kept hearing about this mythical USDA germplasm reserve that sometimes hosts fruit tastings of the specimens that grow there. Someone told me they once went and wandered through a fig orchard, plucking ripe fruit as they walked, tasting the mind-blowing varieties. I somehow missed the invite to the stone fruit tasting (must’ve been in July or August) at Wolfskill but managed to make it to the persimmon and pomegranate tasting this October.
In a word: WOW.
The location is up in the Capay Valley, near the town of Winters. It’s hard to find, the signs are subtle. For a reason: fruit nerds might swoop in constantly to taste the 100 plus varieties of fruit growing on the more than 150 acre plot of land. I know I would. But about three times a year, they swing open the gates and allow the public to come taste. persimmonspeoplewolfskill
The grounds are lovely, bursting with fruit at every turn (gentle reminders not to pick grapes or olives were posted). Instead of traipsing through the orchards willy-nilly, the good people at Wolfskill had harvested the fruit for us, and arranged it in a decorative but functional manner. The fruits were all labeled and we were given a tasting sheet. Fruit geeks (recognizable by their pith helmets) and families milled around the long tables, sampling.
The persimmons: I dunno. Persimmons are weird. I loved them when I first tried them after moving to California, but these days I feel like they are just a leetle bit bland. I do adore dried persimmons, though.
persimmonswolfskill
I can really get excited about pomegranates, though. I have a Wonderful growing at my place, and the shrub makes the most delicious, juicy fruit. The only problem with poms is the staining color.
pomswolfskill
So, imagine my delight when I saw the white (ok, yellow, really) pom there at Wolfskill. Only problem? It was kinda bland. The good news was this most delectable pink, non-staining variety called, myagkosenyannyi rozovyt. It tastes just as complex and rich as Wonderful but it is pink. The poms from Wolfskill are mostly from a former Soviet botanist named Gregory Levin–hence the long-ass name. Read his memoir, Pomegranate Road, if you want the skinny on his life as a pom collector. Now the trick is to get a hold of some of the myagkosenyannyi rozovyt germplasm (aka a cutting). Because it’s a research orchard, you can only get cuttings if you are affiliated with a research institution (GhostTown Farm Laboratories?). I’m trying to work my USF credentials to get a few stems, though–wish me luck. If I’m successful, I’ll have a few myagkosenyannyi rozovyts to harvest in the next few years.
Photos all by Leilani Buddenhagen

Grafting fruit trees

Went to the California Rare Fruit Growers scion exchange in Berkeley this weekend, went to the exchange in San Jose the weekend before that, and now I’m deeply excited to be going to the exchange up in Santa Rosa this Saturday.
Yup, I’ve become a scion groupie.
scions
Some wise woman at a CRFG told me that I should definitely go to all the scion exchanges to get a feel for how the different chapters operate. And she was right: the Santa Clara chapter scion exchange, held in San Jose at the awesome Prusch Park, was lovely, airy, convivial. There was even a six acre urban farm right there! I bought the most delicious cabbage from them.
veggielution
The Berkeley (Golden Gate chapter) event was a full-on scrum of lovely weirdos, anarchists, urban farmers, and a couple old timers. There was a permaculture table and community groups like City Slicker Farms tabling. I ran into way too many friends (I was supposed to be volunteering) and bought the best cara cara oranges I have ever tasted. People were also giving away plants and limes. I rode home with a huge grin on my face.
I also scored some apple rootstock.
rootstock
These beauties will be the rootstock for the Make an Apple class at Ghosttown Farm. Which reminds me: there are still slots left in the class on February 16!! Please email me if you are interested, novellacarpenter at gmail. It’s going to be great, taught by Bethalynn Black, who is a total plant genius. I’ll have lots of different scions to choose from; so you can make the following apple trees: mutsu, pink lady, honeycrisp, king david, pink pearl.
I hear the Santa Rosa exchange is all about apples, so I’m hoping to scoop up some unusuals, and of course, the mighty Gravenstein. The exchange will take place January 25th, at the Santa Rosa Veteran’s Building, 1351 Maple Avenue, just across the street from the county fairgrounds. Doors open at 9 a.m. (free) for CRFG members.
See you there!

What I Learned This Year

I stopped writing in my journal a few years ago (2014 New Year’s Resolution: Write in your journal!), and so I can’t remember what happened, even events from a few weeks past. Even epic events are forgotten quickly. It makes me sad, but I guess that’s one downside to living in the moment. Still, I did shoot some photos, and I’ve been closing out the year by uploading them on my computer. Here are a few of my favorites.

1. Go slow, fava beans are worth it.
favabeaner

2. You can go back home again. My sister with morel mushrooms she picked on the ranch where we were born.
rianamorel

3. Make these walnut cookies that Rosetta Costantino wrote about in her new Southern Italian Dessert cookbook. The book is gorgeous, and even I can remember the recipe because it only has three ingredients. A egg. One cup of sugar. 2.5 cups of walnuts. I couldn’t help myself and sprinkled salt and fennel pollen over some fresh from the oven.

walnutcookies

4. Grow pumpkins, like these sugar pies, which were prolific and one roasted made a great pumpkin pie. As for the rest, kabocha “jade” was the best of the batch (not pictured here).
bestpumpkins

5. You can do a vegetarian Thanksgiving. I wasn’t up for raising a turkey this year, so we did Indian inspired dishes. It was delish. Next year, though, I think we are going to get turkey legs and smoke the hell out of them, Texas style.
vegthanksgiving

6. Conserva, sun dried tomato paste, is divine. Learn how to make it at my tomato processing class this August!
conserva

7. Plant a tree–or 8 of them. The citrus hedge I jackhammered a place for in the garden, was well worth it. They are doing great despite the frost and dry weather. We even have two tangelos on one of the youngest trees.
newlyplantedcitrus

8. Forgive. It’s hard, but once you let that past go, you are free.
meandgeorge

9. Finally, love them while they are here. We miss you Phil Druker.
novellaandphilfran

Happy New Year to Everyone; I can’t wait for 2014!!

Pomegranate explosions

They started to explode on the shrub/tree I planted years ago. My first good crop of Wonderful Pomegranates. I had thought: they’ll never ripen here.
pomagranates
I thought they needed heat. Dry heat. Which we don’t have much of here in Oakland. But ripen they did.

We ate them raw. Frannie is allowed to eat them outside only because they are so messy and juicy. They are one of her favorite snacks, partially because of the work they involve, digging the seeds out, pulling off the pith and membranes; partially because (I think) of that incredible crunch, the explosion of fresh juice in the mouth.
franpom

Until now, there’s nothing left.
peels

Besides snacking on them, I sometimes threw them into salads, like massaged kale salad, to add a bright sweetness. Some people recommend cooking with poms, like Ken Albala. I had never heard of Ken before, but I found myself in Idaho of all places, at the Bookpeople in Moscow, Idaho, and the owner highly highly recommended his book, The Lost Art of Real Cooking, and its companion, The Lost Arts of Hearth and Home. The books are instruction manuals for how to make all sorts of crazy stuff like a koji rice mold and rag rugs; and stuff that you wished you made but haven’t yet like corn tortillas (nixtamalizing your own corn, of course), olla podrida (look it up!), and marmalade.

I’ve never met Ken or his co-author, Rosanna Nafziger, but they are totally my people! Ken lives in Stockton where he teaches food history at the University of the Pacific. I think he must have some pomegranates growing in his garden because in the Hearth and Home book, there’s a recipe for pomegranate molasses that sounds out of this world. Basically you just cook the pomegranate seeds with some sugar and vanilla for a million hours on low. The result is that gummy blood-like sludge that tastes like heaven.

Sadly, Frannie and I ate all the poms fresh. Next year I’m hoping the pomegranate tree will have biggered itself and I’ll have enough to try the recipe…But if you find yourself with an overabundance, give it a shot. Any other good pom recipes out there?

Grapes

My sister, Riana, has been doing a fun thing all month on her flickr site. Every day in August, she has been preparing something for the Fall/Winter. We both have (and love) Nikki McClure calendars. If you haven’t seen them, they are really beautiful, paper-cut images along with one word that defines the month. The words are weird, almost prescient, because they always seem to sum up the core meaning of a month. Last month the theme was DELIGHT, and man, July was delightful. August’s word is PREPARE, and there is an illustration of some kids working on some projects.

Like my sis, I’m squirreling foodstuffs away like crazy. Confiting San Marzano tomatoes, freezing Early Girls, drying kale chips (BTW, the Gundruk made last post got really gnarly. I think I let it go in the jar for too long. Or maybe I got it right but it might be an acquired taste.). The latest is freezing grapes. A volunteer came from Queens, NY (Thanks Jac!), and we got to talking about grapes. Should I juice them? Make raisins? Jac said, busy cutting off mildewy pumpkin leaves: freeze them.

Frannie helped. It’s really messy. grapes

Freezing them actually intensifies their flavor. I have two gallon freezer bags full of them. They taste just like summer. Back to squirreling….