Despite the seriousness of the drought we are in, the September sun is too beautiful not to be celebrated. Its delicious warmth heats the cooler breezes and piercing clarity contrasts nicely with the deep blue skies, making it a great time to get to the beach except early or late in the day.
I’ve spent time in three wonderful and very different areas of New England in the last couple of weeks: Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, midcoast Maine and our lovely island. Just in our little corner of the country there is such variety in the feeling of the land and the look of the people who live there, the size of the trees and what the water looks like, and also, what’s growing there that I can eat.
Lately I find that the first thing I do when visiting a new area, if things are growing, is to start looking around for what wild berries or fruit or edible plants are there. My husband is used to me now, so that when I get out of the car and start wandering off into the bushes, he knows I’m just foraging and will make my way back after I’ve satisfied my curiosity and my appetite.
In Vermont I found raspberries and blackberries. In Maine this past weekend, there were still blueberries and huckleberries. Everywhere are wild apples of different flavors and sweetness.
On Chappy, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the beach plums so thick on certain bushes. The trees with choke cherries, our wild cherries, are draped with shiny black fruit which make delicious syrup or jelly when sweetened. Just be careful because the pectin level is quite high. I made jelly years ago the old-fashioned way of boiling it until the juice reaches the soft-ball stage. I still remember putting the spoon in to taste the jelly after it had cooled, and not being able to pull it back out. It was like a dried glue pot.
The branches of the little volunteer peach tree in my garden are nearly breaking under the weight of all the almost-ripe fruit. Last year I told the tree, which had only ever produced a few blighted peaches, that I would be cutting it down unless I got at least one edible peach from it. There was one, and only one, but the taste was unlike anything you can buy in the store. I didn’t cut it down and this year it has gone all out to please me, probably so as to ensure its life.
Although the grapes are not all ripe yet, it looks like a fantastic year for them, too. All in all, it promises to be a busy fall in the kitchen preserving and freezing the harvest.
I got an e-mail from Ann Brine, who sent along an interesting Chappy story. On Labor Day, she and Bill took friends from Chilmark on a tour of our island. At the Chappaquiddick Community Center, the books resting against the wall caught the eye of their friend’s house guest. Ann said, “I looked, not expecting much as the books had been there since the fair in July. But, I found Susan Howatch’s Glittering Images, and then an Elizabeth George mystery, followed by a Josephine Tey.”
As they turned to leave, Ann noticed a familiar cover. It was John Tobey Daggett’s book, It Began with a Whale: Memories of Cedar Tree Neck, Martha’s Vineyard. It was in excellent condition and signed.
Ann said, “My copy, bought almost 40 years ago at Avery’s (where Sundog is now) is unsigned, except by me. It had been missing for years until a friend found it in her bookcase. Because of that, I know the Edgartown library doesn’t have a copy, so when the new building is up and running, I‘ll offer them my Chappy find which tells about the life of Obed and Maria Daggett at Cedar Tree Neck on the north shore from 1884 to 1934.”
After the summer fair, I had put the leftover books out on the community center porch with an envelope tacked to the wall to collect money. For many weeks the row of books seemed to stay the same, even though money was left in the envelope. When the row actually began to grow, I realized that people were leaving books as well as buying them! But now the books are free and hopefully people will take them all away before the snow falls.
The farmers’ market continues on Wednesdays at 4 p.m. at the community center. Yoga with Emily Sims will go through September on Thursdays at 4:30 p.m. The last of this summer’s foreign film series is an English film, Bright Young Things, based on an Evelyn Waugh book. The film will be shown at 7 this evening, admission free.
Many thanks to Mary Spencer for the great choices this summer and the willingness to set up the equipment each week . You can catch up with Mary next week at the Second International Film Festival in Vineyard Haven where she’ll be coordinating volunteers. She’s looking for people to pick up and drive directors and special guests, sell tickets, take tickets and usher at all the screenings and help out at the parties. Anyone interested can call her at 508-627-4011 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Many thanks to Jo-Ann Tilghman whose enjoyable and informative columns we got to read all summer.