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Farm Fresh: The Divine Palate

Emily Carr, in her small memoir, Klee Wyck, describes a hot summer day in the native village she lived in.

She went to the store where she bought one pear, one costly Bartlett, brought up the Cariboo road by mule-train.

The first bite into those Bartletts was intoxicating.  The juice met your teeth with a gush.

But then Dr. Cabbage appeared who had never seen a pear before.  She offered it to him.  He took a “deep greedy bite”.

The juice trickled down his chin -- his tongue jumped out and caught it; he sipped the oozing juice from the hole our bites had made.  He licked the drops running down the rind, then with his eyes still on the pear, he held it out for me to take back.

“No, It's all yours.”

His eyes squinted at the fruit as if he could not quite believe his ears and that all the pear in his hands belonged to him.  Then he took bite after bite, rolling each bite slowly round his mouth,  catching every drop of juice with loud suckings.  He ate the core.  he ate the tail, and licked his fingers over and over like a cat.

“Hyas Klosshe (very good),” he said, and trotted up the hill as though his joints had been oiled.

Since I read this as a child, I have never bitten into a Bartlett pear, perfectly ripe, without thinking gratefully of Emily Carr and Dr. Cabbage.

If you are blessed with a little bit of land, you can grow something you eat.  It doesn’t take much.  A blackberry vine, a container tomato, rhubarb, some herbs.  And radishes take only three weeks from seed to table.

Pioneers in Ontario planted three things:  rhubarb and asparagus for food, and lilac by the house for the smell.  These are still very easy plants to grow.

I have rhubarb in my freezer and blackberries growing in my front yard soon to be ripe.  Today I biked past a house in Oakville with a neat vegetable garden in the front yard.

So often we ‘grab a bite,’ ‘pick up a snack, ’eat and run.’ But to work for your food:  to plant, to water, to weed, to harvest.  And then to eat one perfect pear, or a bowl of blackberries soon to be ripe, even mulberries picked from the trees around town that are presently laden with ripe berries.

And when you grow something yourself, you give the earth a rest from all that goes into producing, packaging and transporting it.  And it tastes so wonderful.

Try this Mexican radish slaw:

  • 18 radishes sliced thin,

  • 2 green onions sliced thin,

  • 1/3 cup of cilantro chopped,

  • 1 tablespoon of lime juice.

Toss together.  Serve on lettuce or tacos.  The lime juice cuts the heat of the radishes.