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Today I’ll be making apple pie to share tomorrow at work. I’m using apples from our very own tree.

In my circle of friends, it’s rare to be someplace long enough to plant a tree and see it bear an abundance of fruit. I think that this is probably more common in today’s world, because of transience in our jobs as well as an increased tendency to rent, rather than to buy our dwellings.

While my husband credits me with having turned him on to sustainability and gardening, he planted this tree the year his son was born, 14 years ago. He planted it on Arbor Day, and says it was really only a whim, but now that we are in our 30s, it makes dozens of sweet, green apples. This, to me, is a miracle.

Community gardens are wonderful, but the next generation of permaculture must include neighborhood orchards. We have room for one apple tree, one grapevine, some hops, two blueberries, and a plum that unfortunately does not bear because it needs a pollinator (mate). But, our sunshine space is almost full. What if our neighbor planted a pollinator, and we could both enjoy plums? Could they plant a fig tree, and trade figs with us? One can quickly imagine how abundant a neighborhood could be if landlords planted fruit trees, and entrusted their tenants to their care and harvest. Indeed, this is not our culture now!

So often, we decide against planting perennials, because we know our futures are uncertain and we will not reap the benefits of our investment. Sadly, as this trend continues we see less and less of anything but lawn on rented property, the landscaping not serving as much more than a value booster. I wish fruit tree plantings were subsidized. Can they be?

Thank you, Charles, for planting that tree for Aaron then, and now, for us, because he is still here and since I moved in I get to enjoy it as well.

The tree requires very little care. It did suffer from woolly aphids this year, but they don’t often damage the tree. It may not produce as much in times of drought, but again, as a permanent part of your garden it will pick up again next year where it left off, saving you a great deal of energy compared to what it would take to produce the same volume of produce with a plot full of annuals.

The food:

I trust the Joy of Cooking on pies, so I followed their recipe for Apple Pie I (in which the apples are not precooked) with Flaky Pastry Crust I. I used trans fat free shortening for my vegan comrades, but using local butter is also possible. I used Lindley Mills flour, ground locally of shipped wheat. North Carolina has never grown hard (bread-worthy) wheat because of the climate, but thanks to a new project in Asheville, we may have our own wheat in the next few years!

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Just let me eat the food!

Just let me eat the food!

Fried local okra, using locally ground organic cornmeal. We used Spectrum gmo- and trans fat-free shortening.

local fried okra

These potatoes were advertised at the market as “fresh dug”. With local butter.

local potatoes corn aaronCorn–self-explanatory–but my question is, we didn’t ask, but how prevalent is GM corn here in NC? Do even small farmers end up growing it inadvertently? It’s partly a math question: if the current stat is that about 70-80% of corn being grown is GMO, and only 10% is organic, then some percentage is non-GMO non-organic corn. Interesting but not particularly encouraging. The odds are not in our favor, especially as the pollen and seeds fly.

This is local steak. I don’t eat steak, so, sorry, I’m not sure what farm to credit. At Deep Roots we sell Running River Ranch beef.completely local meal

Fresh slabs of what looks like a Purple Cherokee tomato. Next time I’m sending Charles and Aaron with a notebook!

I’ll just say:  This is what they’re talking about when they say local food tastes better.

local breakfast ingredients
Butter: local. This isn’t actually the butter we sell at the co-op, so it may contain hormones. Shock, horror! I do not do this very often, and admit it was just convenience, because we ran out and went to the farmer’s market. Usually, I buy Homeland Creamery butter.
french toast in the rough

Eggs: Winding Creek Homestead, the wanderingest, bug-eatingest hens’s eggs you will find outside of your backyard. Can you see how yellow they are? This bright color is a sign of how rich in protein their diets are. I think they are higher in Omega-3s, too, which isn’t something a local farmer is likely to be able to market.

local french toast with apple butterBread: Simple Kneads Bakery, the 7-year-old city bakery that runs on a 100-year-old sourdough culture carried over from Europe.

Apple Butter: I don’t actually know where she got the apples, but my friend made this. It’s delicious.

So the Eat Local Challenge starts July 1, and I’m warming up. The High Point farmers market has just opened, and I’m eager to see how it compares to the others.

old trustyOn a new health kick, I proudly pump up the tires on my bike and pull an engineer’s cap over my bedhead, hoping no one will be too picky about appearances. I grab my new purple ChicoBag, stuff it into its sack, with some cash, and I’m off down the street. I notice the front tire is flat again already, but I decide to continue since the market isn’t very far away. I pump up the tire again halfway there and hope for the best.

The farmers market is small. Two men sit behind two folding tables with their veggies displayed; two other trucks are almost loaded, the vendors ready to head back; it was about 10 am. I approach the first table and survey the freshness: zucchini, tomatoes, potatoes, and the NC-omnipresent sweet potatoes. I pick out a nice-looking pickling cucumber and a few green tomatoes and add them to my bag. I try to get the farmer talking all the while, asking about the trouble I’ve had growing cukes. He’s especially interested in my bike, and we talk scooters for a bit.

I visit the truck next to him, then, and buy a bunch of beets, especially so I can eat the greens: I’m missing the callaloo we had in Jamaica, and spinach or kale are no match for the subtle texture and flavor. Maybe the beets will do. This farmer thanks me profusely for overpaying by 50 cents, and shares his beet recipe (baked, with butter and spices). I add the bundle to my ChicoBag and, starting to head home, I drape the bag over my handlebars.

It’s a little embarrassing being the only one at a farmers market of 4 people, because I’m shy anyways. And, I haven’t gotten on a bike in a year and a half, and, the tire is flat. I mutter something in nervous acknowledgement of this and wobble off through the parking lot. I ride about ten feet.

Kerchunk. I’m stopped. I look down. I see pink smeared along the rim of my front tire. Curiously, I’m thinking it’s the ChicoBag, torn. I look. The beets have been neatly yanked through the front fork, some woven between the spokes, some still tucked behind the fork. I dismount and survey the problem carefully. The farmer approaches me. I say, “I’m kind of embarrassed….” and, unhooking a carabiner and getting the beets free, he turns away again, perhaps to respect my right to muddle my own life freely. “You got it.” I spend another minute or two trying to figure out how to carry the bag, wet with beet juice, back home, choosing finally to roll up the top as tightly as I can in my fist, and hold it in my hand as I ride.

Below: The remains of my take.the remains of my take

Chicobag: A+. It’s not a backpack, but it survived being mangled in bike spokes, and when I’m not riding my bike, it’s cute as a bug.

Cool factor: D, because at least I tried.

prepping tomatoesThe food:

I fried up the green tomatoes in a mix of cornmeal, salt and pepper. I’ll keep an eye out for local organic cornmeal before July; 70%+ of corn in the US now is genetically modified, so I am taking a hard line on that.

The sauce is just mayo and hot sauce mixed together. Other ideas: goat cheese, herbed cream cheese, sweet chili sauce.

The cukes are good with salt, but the skins are a little bitter…I just ate the middles.

All in all, quite satisfying! I’ll try the beets later.finished fried and cukes