Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Flavor of your Neighbors

The photo is of some super tasty grapes and tomatoes we picked up today on the way to the park. The woman we got them from had the cutest backyard produce stand and gave us a tour of her amazing garden. We're inspired to write about her grapes. They're like nothing we've tasted before, sweet but with a savory, almost herb-like flavor. Which got me thinking how fun it is to sample the flavors of the micro growing regions around us: our neighborhoods...

When I was growing up, oranges in my backyard were “just oranges.” Just as the now fancy Meyer lemons were just lemons. But we have a world of wee micro-tastes to enjoy that seem to change from town to town, and it’s remarkable how flavors so specific to an area can be so connecting. I was eating one of these delicious “just an oranges” one day when one of my favorite coworkers asked me where I got it. Through the smell and the look of it, we discovered she and I grew up in neighboring towns eating the very same kind of orange as kids.

There’s a certain region in the Bay that seems to grow a particularly tart/sweet and flavorful navel. Maybe it’s the 30+ year age of the trees or it’s an older variety. It could be the mild winters and blue skies, but they’ve got a strong punch and powerful aroma. Picked at their peak, they spill an unusual amount of juice. We talked about how spoiled we were by these thick-skinned winter treats, especially after tasting one a friend had shared from her tree. This friend lived across the water, about 20 miles away from our towns, and while juicy and tasty, the flavor was completely different.

Fast-forward to now and the basil we’re growing at home this summer tastes sweeter than other places we’ve lived. To me, the locally grown cucumbers have a strong mineral-rich taste. Part of what makes sharing your backyard bounty fun is really getting to discover the uniqueness your hometown lends to the food you grow.

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