North Star Orchard: On Farming and Food

  (Cochranville, Pennsylvania)
Unique and heritage varieties of fruits and vegetables
[ Member listing ]

Peppermint Stick = Happiness

Do you remember being a kid and having a certain special sugary treat that always made you smile?

For me, when I was really little, it was Laffy Taffy. It came in all kinds of crazy bright colors, and thinking of the special tangy-sweet flavors and stretchy-chewy texture actually has my mouth watering right now. I’ve since moved on to all things chocolate, but that colorful chewy tasty craziness of Laffy Taffy is stuck (!) in my memory.

So when Ike came in the house yesterday talking about his favorite chard color, peppermint stick he called it, I just had to go see. And there it was, gorgeous in all its glory. How could I have missed that beauty? But then I noticed that it was only one plant among all the other lovelies (which, by the way, come in ALL the Laffy Taffy colors known to man).

And yes, I started drooling (but kept it to myself, no worries). What a neat thing that – a memory of a sweet treat from long ago was brought forth by something that most kids would turn their noses up at. Ah, but tastebuds change. To me, chard is just about as yummy as Laffy Taffy. Thankfully, it is not as chewy; I have too many fillings and things now to deal with that.

Maybe that special sweet something of yours still makes you smile, but then again maybe you’ve moved on to bigger and better things like peppermint mocha lattes or, gasp….kale?!

What special sweet blast-from-the-past something has popped into your mind?


Morning at the Market

The West Chester Growers' Market: We were one of the founding members of this market (the first such producer-only market in SE PA!!) in 1995.

You always remember your first!



It seems like just about everything nowadays is tending towards instant.Instant

Online, of course:
-Connect to the internet, in an instant
-Order a book for your Kindle, in an instant
-Download a song (or a whole album) to your iPod, in an instant

But even in real life:
-Drive-through Starbucks; get your coffee, in an instant
-Order a refill for your prescription at the pharmacy, in an instant
-Know where you’re driving to via your GPS system, in an instant

In this day of ‘instant’, it’s nice to be aware of and appreciate things which do not take an instant:
-A long walk on the beach just prior to sunset
-The growth of your child from babe to functioning adult
-Following the cycles of the farm, from planting, to care, to harvest

I was startled one day in late winter when I received a phone call for someone looking for instant. In this case, an instant orchard. What they were looking for were adult Asian pear trees to put on their property. Not just one or two to fill a spot or two in their landscaping, as I was originally thinking, but an orchard’s worth.

The usual cycle of an orchard starts with ordering trees from a nursery. It can take anywhere from one to three years to receive the trees, depending on the nursery’s supply, how rare the variety is, etc. The trees arrive generally looking like long sticks with a few stringy roots attached. Planting, training, and waiting follows, followed by more training and waiting. And more training and waiting. Finally, several years down the road, you are (hopefully) rewarded with a fine crop of fruit to eat, share, and/or sell. Along the way, you, as an orchardist, make mistakes, learn more about how to be a better orchardist, and attempt to fix mistakes you previously made. In the end, if you haven’t made too many mistakes, the trees have grown tall and strong and pay you back in many ways for all earlier troubles.

This sounds oddly similar to parenting, actually, although we don’t get to (usually) pick out the specific variety of baby we want to raise.

So, these folks who want an instant orchard…well, it just makes me kind of cringe. First off, pulling a fully-grown tree from the ground and transplanting it elsewhere is a very delicate (and expensive) operation. The tree will be in shock. It may not survive the process, much less grow and be healthily productive. I suppose if you have enough money to throw at the project, chances of success would be better, but no matter what, it would still be hard on the tree.

And what of the heart of the orchardist? Carefully selecting and nurturing plus years of care and mistakes are all part of what makes a fulfilled orchardist. We feel great pride when our ‘children’ grow and become the best that they can be.

But an ‘instant’ orchardist? I can imagine that the only pride to be had is in the ability to stroke one’s ego. “Look, I spent $X and have an instant orchard”. Indeed; one that has been shocked through transition and struggles to survive with a caregiver who perhaps hasn’t even read a “Dummies Guide to Orcharding”. The heart and soul just wouldn’t be there, much less the knowledge how to help those struggling trees reach their full potential.

Instant is great for lattes, MP3s, and streaming videos, but for growing children, be they human or tree, I’ll take the long road any day.

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