As we’ve talked about before, Chicago was Victory Garden Central during WWII. During the war, 1,500 urban gardens popped up, the North Park neighborhood had the largest garden in the country, and tons of food was produced.
Victory gardening was a way for the nation to prioritize its major agricultural resources. Large-scale farming operations could concentrate of the crops needed to feed armies and keep the homefront going with things that couldn’t be effectively gardened, like wheat and corn. Vegetables, which were nutritionally important, and possible to grow at home, were outsourced to the populace, largely women.
The Peterson Garden Project carries on that legacy, by providing space and education for urban gardening. I garden at Vedgewater, at the corner of Broadway and Rosemont. A garden on top of concrete lot, it definitely meets the “urban” requirement. I can see the Red Line “L” train go by from my plot.
While I am not producing enough food to make it through rationing, it is a nice addition to our purchased food. I am definitely keeping us in greens. The real retrofitting value lies in feeling more connected to the weather, nature, and my neighbors. I’m also able to grow older and interesting varieties of vegetables, that don’t have enough appeal/ease of growing/etc to be available commercially. Continue reading “How Does Your Garden Grow?”→
After a mild winter, I’m surprised that I’m still feeling that spring stirring, but feel it I do. Snowdrops and crocuses are dotting the block, the seed catalogs are looking alluring, and it’s possible (not likely, but possible) we got the last of the snow last week. (I didn’t say that.)
With more light and a general sense of possibility, I’m feeling optimistic for my immediate domestic sphere. Like many people, “optimistic” has not been able to describe my general mood since November, at least when looking at the general state of affairs in the world. But in my smaller world, it’s spring and it’s time to clear the dust out the corners. Because if I’m going to be horrified on the regular, the smallest comforts seem necessary.
My home state of Michigan produces 70-75% of the tart cherries grown in the US. Tart or sour cherries are the kind used in cherry pie, and they’re just about my favorite thing. The season is short, the flavor is fantastic, and getting them fresh can be a challenge. So when Bob and I went on a family camping trip just a little ways away from one of my favorite Michigan orchards, Spicer Orchards in Hartland, we resolved to pick cherries on our way home to Chicago.
And pick cherries we did. In a marvelous bit of luck, the day was cooler than usual, with lots of nice cloud cover, so the day was comfortable and the orchard wasn’t too crowded. We picked about 13 pounds of tart cherries, and threw in six pounds of blueberries for good measure.
Arguably, after the obvious benefit of having cherries, the best thing about picking your own is watching the cherry pitting machine. It costs a little extra, but the mechanical wonder took care of my cherries in about a minute. Since I hand pit cherries with a bent paperclip, which would have taken at least an hour, I would have paid more than the twenty-five cents per pound the orchard charged. AND YOU GET TO WATCH THE MACHINE, I cannot overemphasize that. I didn’t take any video at Spicers, but this machine is quite similar.
What will be done with this bounty of fruit? So far, I’ve canned six pints of cherries in syrup, made a little more than a pint of sour cherry syrup for drinks, and made a batch of cherry and a batch of blueberry scones. The rest of the fruit is going in the freezer, where some of it will await a cool day to make jam, and the rest will be used in various baked goods.
How do you like to use sour cherries?
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