Thursday, July 23, 2009

Be nice to your neighbors = grapes

My neighbor is growing grapes right in Baltimore City! She lives about a block away from me, and these lovely things have been growing right up her fence in her tiny rowhouse backyard. I always admire them since I actually don't think I've ever seen fruiting grapevines before. And also they are directly across from my friend Stephanie's backyard where they are growing yellow cherry tomatoes. Mmmm!

Anyway, I parked my car right next to the grapes today and the lady was actually outside. So I stopped by to tell her how beautiful they are and how cool it is that she is growing grapes, and she plucked a whole bunch off to give them to me! She even said I could take leaves off whenever I want if I want to make dolmades or something. She said I could take grapes too but I'm not going to take all of her fruit. I'll probably bring her some Baltimore lavender, so maybe if there is a special occasion I'll grab another bunch.

These things were amazing. Seriously, the more I eat fruit/vegetables directly from the plant, the more I realize how different they taste from something that has been sitting in a refrigerated truck for days. I guess it's kind of like how when you pluck a flower, it's always so much prettier when it's on the plant than when it's been in a vase for a while.

The grapes were a lot smaller than "regular" green grapes- I actually thought they were going to be underripe. But the skin was tart and sweet, the flesh was seedless and exploded with sweetness. Very firm and fruity. I immediately ran around trying to find anyone I knew to share them with, since it's so much more fun sharing the experience with someone. I gave some to my neighbor and even ran into the liquor store on the corner to share them with some of the other neighborhood people I see on a weekly basis (yay Baltimore!). As always it was a pleasure to see them bite into the fruit somewhat suspiciously, and then to see the look of surprise as they realize how delicious the food is!

I also finally decided to harvest the black walnuts that are growing from this gigantic tree right next to my building. It's so weird because the nuts always fall into the parking lot and turn all black and mushy and seem like just some weird pest. No one ever thinks to open up those green fruits to get the nuts inside! Admittedly, it's a ridiculous amount of work to get to the walnuts and finally cure them, but you know me, I love a good project.

My fingers are definitely dyed yellowish-brown now (if anyone is looking for all natural dyes, please contact me!). I also got a ton of weird looks from people walking by. What, they've never seen someone banging open a hard green fruit with a wrench before?!

After about an hour of work I did the "float test" to see which nuts were good or not. The bad ones float, the good ones sink. I've heard mixed things about why this is; I'm not sure if it has to do with the fact that the nut goes bad if it stays inside the fruit for too long after it falls off the tree, or if there are bugs in it. Or if there isn't enough nutmeat?

In any case, 11 nuts floated, 5 nuts sank. Geez, like the essential oil, I am finding out how much work it takes to make certain products! Although I guess opening walnuts with actual machines is much easier than banging on them repeatedly with your brother's wrench..

In any case I plan on continually collecting these suckers whenever I feel like it. I believe they tree will be fruiting for the next month or even into early fall, so maybe in three months I'll have enough for a bag of trail mix!

Wow, never thought I would be collecting so much Hampden-grown produce!


Samtaters said...

Those grapes look like they were absolutely delicious. Where in Hampden do you live? I'm moving there effective Sunday (from Charles Village). I'm at 38th and Hickory. I might have to beg your neighbor for some grapes, I am recovering and all. Maybe your neighbor will pitty me!

I know exactly what you mean about wanting to share them with everyone. The best experiences are those that inspire you to share and be selfless. You are so happy and excited you don't want to keep it to yourself!

It was interesting seeing you harvest black walnuts. My Grandfather used to have a black walnut tree in his backyard and I was always curious how you would harvest them. When my sister and I were really young, we used to sit on the back porch and count how many fell in a period of time. We'd also predict where they would fall and if they'd add a few more dents to the top of my Grandfather's pick-up! I never once tried to open them.


nexus said...

I find it fascinating that you're collecting black walnuts this early. I harvest black walnuts every yearbut I usually start in September. I always thought the ones that fell early wouldn't be any good, but not for any reason based on research or experience. It'll be cool to see how these early ones turn out.

About people giving you weird looks regarding the walnut - I've gotten some strange comments from people when foraging other edibles. For instance, near by neighborhood there is a feral apple tree that I visit that is oddly placed between a convenience store and a Domino's - and it produces suprisingly sweet apples. One time, someone passed me by and asked me "isn't that a poisonous plant?"

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