Apples, Blackberries and Tomatoes, Oh My!

Its been a little more than three weeks since my last garden update and boy does a little fertilizer and new soil go a long way!  The tomato plants have tripled in size and the leaves are a perky rich green.  They’re even growing new little tomatoes!  Our cherry tomatoes have been ripening for a couple of weeks and we are eating them by the handful.  I have been particularly enjoying the first crop of larger heirlooms. The Italian ones not picture perfect.  There were a few cracks across the top, but they smell warm and sweet.  I’ve had one on a ham sandwich almost every day.  My favorite preparation so far however, is sliced with a sprinkle of sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper.  I’ve noticed that heirloom tomatoes have far fewer seeds than store-bought varieties.  Without seeds the heirlooms have more room to grow that thick creamy interior and are definitely sweeter and more fulfilling than their store bought cousins.

Our blackberries seem to change from firm green to red to plump sweet black almost overnight.  We have been harvesting about a pint every other day until last night when Tom and I picked almost two pints.  Blackberry picking is dangerous business.  It involves carefully placed footsteps in between dozens of razor sharp thorny vines.  Balance is important too, not that I have any with this belly of mine.  Being 5 feet tall I have to reach and lean into the bushes to pick the berries that are ripe. I quickly learned a skirt might be great for pregnancy, but it is not appropriate blackberry picking garb.  Neither is any sort of loose shirt.  The thorns reach out and grab you like some sort of enchanted monster bush from Harry Potter.  And those scratches itch!  Still we check the bushes every day to pick, and usually eat, everything we can find.  I haven’t made a thing with my blackberries yet. We eat most of the sweeter plump ones before rinsing and freezing the rest for winter.

My favorite part of the day is just after the sun ducks behind a stand of eucalyptus trees about 1/4 mile away.  It’s not quite dusk but it feels close.  The air cools and the ever present wind slows to a light breeze.  Tom and I stroll through the orchard with the dog picking apples off the trees and taking test bites.  Have you ever tasted an unripe apple?  It has a bitter tang to it.  Your lips will pucker like you bit into a lemon and a strange fuzziness will spread across your tongue and lips like the outside of a kiwi.  After weeks of bitter apples it was a shock to bite into a perfectly ripe crisp apple.  My first Gravenstein.  I wasn’t even hungry and I ate the whole thing.  We filled our shirts with apples from that tree and left all the others with the hope that my sweet apple wasn’t a fluke and this tree just ripened first.

It wasn’t.

A few days later I noticed the whole town was up a ladder picking their prize Gravenstein Apples.  So Tom and I promptly went out and picked at least 10 lbs from our orchard.

The next day I sat in front of the TV watching Big Brother with my daughter painstakingly pealing 20 apples and dropping each one into a bowl of lemon juice and water.  After the show was over I sliced around the cores and threw them into my favorite Le Creuset Dutch Oven that I found in almost perfect condition at a garage sale in Santa Cruz for $3.00.  The heat was turned to high and I was waiting for a boil.

Then Brae called me over to help her with a game.  No more than 5 minutes passed when I remembered


What a mess!  My pot is black on the bottom.  I am still soaking in baking soda and vinegar and scrubbing, over and over to clean it.  The apples, of course, are ruined.

I haven’t looked at the last 6 lbs of apples since then.  I’m going to have to tackle them soon though.  They aren’t going to last forever and I have been craving that apple butter I made last year.  Funny, last years apples came with grief too.  Brae is still worried about those bees, even though they are long gone.

Author: Melissa

I live in the high desert outside of Los Angeles in southern California with my 14-year-old daughter and my 6 yr old son. I love to help people, which is why I am a teacher! I find so much joy in helping others create a life they love. This little blog is about food. Growing it, cooking it and eating it! I hope it inspires you to try something new and stretch yourself!

10 thoughts

  1. What a great post! My handfuls of raspberries and dozen apples on my infant trees seem paltry in comparison (though I hope they taste just as sweet). I wish we had the weather here for growing tomatoes (or the finances for a really nice glasshouse!). I stayed in a friend’s condo in Santa Cruz about 10 years ago, and I swear I have never tasted tomatoes like those they were growing in their shared yard.

    1. I was never successful at growing anything until I moved out of the desert. Northern California’s Mediterranean-like weather makes gardening here a piece of cake.

  2. Very jealous NYC dweller here. Your photos look so inviting as do your descriptions of your harvest. I did go peach picking last week with my grandson. Went to the Fishkill Organic Farm in Dutchess County, NY. We go there often over the summer months to pick whatever is ready. Last week besides the peaches, we got a dozen early Gold apples. They have about twenty four trees of this variety and only one was ready for the picking. Delicious eating apple. The blackberries were not ready as all of them were bright red. Expect they will be all gone though before our next visit in two weeks. The peaches are wonderful and I’m making a pie tomorrow with some of them. Keep well. Enjoy all of your posts so much. Expect that you will soon be sending your followers a picture of the new baby. Good luck.

  3. You got a Le Creuset pot for $3 at a garage sale!?!? Brilliant-deal-of-the-century 🙂 Those apples are gorgeous, too. It may have been an icky, crazy thing with the burning, but you made me feel better. I did the same thing last week trying to make ginger syrup. Extremely sad and bad ending to that…… 😦 😦 lots of scrubbing, and lots of feeling bad about the waste over here on my side. Well, if it can happen to YOU…then, maybe I feel like that’s a periodic kitchen chapter.

    Blackberries are my FAVORITE berry…..and I can well imagine that the mama-belly with loose fabric snagged right into all those thorns. Aww….well, I hope the scratches go away soon. Isn’t this the most wonderful time of year? August is so full of wonderful foods….and I *personally* loved being pregnant with Autumn babies myself. It felt right to stock up all that lovely food while wrapping up the last trimester. The nesting comes along right with the seasonal joy of canning, jam-ing, freezing.

    Hey, guess what I saw today in the store? FRESH hazelnuts. Still green and with the tree branch, practically. In the vegetable section, too! I have no idea what a person does with those…..right next to the licorice root. (no kidding….)

    1. I still cant believe I found that pot at a garage sale. Its probably one of my favorite possessions.
      I thought I would be so uncomfortable being heavily pregnant in the fall but it hasn’t been too bad! The weather rarely gets above 90 degrees here and there is almost always a cool breeze coming off the ocean to take the edge off. With Brae I was living in the desert and was dying in 100 degree heat at only 4 months along. This is so much better I can’t complain at all.
      August is the best month for fruit isn’t it! I am trying to savor all that I can right now before the rainy season hits and we are back to citrus and greens.
      I don’t think I have ever seen fresh hazelnuts at the store. Not sure what I would do with them either! Maybe homemade Nutella 🙂

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