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Archive for July, 2011

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I have a funny relationship to my window-sill gardens. They are more like pets and less like food. Hence, my maternal pride for this lovely little beauty growing on southern-exposure living-room ledge. Last year, I grew a tomato and it was so gorgeous I didn’t pick it. It shriveled on the vine. This year, I still have my pot of chard, tons of herbs and some mint  — the mint and chard are doing very well in the shade of my sofa. I know it’s just a matter of habit. I have gotten into the habit of using my herbs — I used them all the time. But the tomato, since it’s rare, seems special. I promise I’ll pick it this year. Especially since, my other tomato plants have many other yellow flowers.

On Friday, we discovered this grapevine dangling next to Robert Jackson’s new office — the sign said it was also the Washington Heights Chamber of Commerce. First mulberries. Now grapes.  I guess the point is that many of us want to make things grow, despite the fact that we live in this highly urban concrete jungle. On the Fourth of July my friend Jamie and I bemoaned the fact that we couldn’t turn our roof into proper gardens — we all agreed that it would be mutually beneficial to both our landlord and ourselves. But we also agreed, it wasn’t going to happen so quickly.  I guess we need to continue to push to make it happen. And in the meantime, we will continue to fill the nooks and crannies of the city with soil to make things grow.

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Saturday morning, bright and sunny, we went to Inwood and the boys wanted a few bucks for treats. “I’ll give you a few bucks if you pick some mulberries.”They groaned a little. But only a little. Then they started to pick.

“We can go to our good tree,” Z said to B. Then to me, “I’ll show you.” He led me down the path that runs parallel to the Isham into a grove of fruiting mulberries.

I am still amazed that these prolific trees grow all over NYC and for the most part, the only beings who indulge in their sweet-sweet fruit are the pigeons. Now that I know they exist, the birds have competition. From me and my bucket. But from Z and his insatiable appetite. We picked together for a while, Z eating more than he dropped in our recycled yogurt container bucket. Then I left them to continue while I shopped on the street.

You have to remember, we live in the middle of NYC. When I was their age I had a secret imaginary world of fairies who lived in a patch of violets in the back of my parents. backyard. Sometimes I worry that they are not having that experience of the world being filled with hidden secret places. But clearly they are.

That’s another thing I love about going to the farmers market in Inwood on a Saturday morning. They can actually go off by their own — run and play on the hill and the thicket behind Isham Street.

The way they reacted to my request to berry-pick said a lot about where we have come as a family. Mulberry picking, even though we only started last year, is now a tradition. And like any 11 and 9-year-old boy, they are experts.

“This is the best tree,” one chided.

“No, look you have to pick it this way,” the other reprimanded with great authority. I sent them off with two yogurt containers and they came back with one ¾ of the way filled. Then I sent them back to fill it – John and I helped

“What will we do with the berries this year?” Z asked.

“We could make a pie like last time,” B said.
“Maybe we’ll try jam,” I suggest.

My mother used to make microwave jam. I am sure a microwave strips food of nutrients, but in case you haven’t noticed, I’m pretty tired these days. I perused some other recipes that called for boiling and pectin and I just wasn’t up for it. This recipe is basically how I remember my mother doing it.

And the mulberry jam – it’s to die for. Although I tried to send them out again today with the babysitter to pick more berries and I couldn’t get them out to the woods without me. I guess it’s a lucky day for the pigeons.

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Microwave Mulberry Jam

2 cups of crushed mulberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. butter.

Remove the stems from the mulberries. Crush in an 8 cup glass measure with a spout. 
Let stand until juices forms – about thirty minutes.

Cover with a piece of wax paper. Then 
microwave on high for 10-14 minutes, stirring every 2-3 minutes. 
Spoon out 1 tbsp. of jam, refrigerate for 15 minutes and test consistency. 
If the  jam is too runny, re-heat it in microwave for intervals of 2 more minutes until it has the consistency you’re looking for.

Makes a jam jar full.

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