September 9, 2004
One of the things I love about driving around the countryside with Maxence is that we share the same enthusiasm for anything that's hand-painted on a wooden sign and planted onto the side of the road. Admittedly, it is the signs advertising edibles and drinkables that receive the most attention, but we also like to think that we could very well stop and visit that tree-root museum or drop by that special mattress sale.
Following such roadside signs is often an exercise in speed, reflexes and agility, as you are generally offered but the one chance to read the instructions correctly, understand how they match what roads and crossroads you find before you, recalculate your vehicle's route based on that navigation information, and be prepared to make a sharp turn onto that teeny dirt road, possibly at a higher speed than altogether reasonable -- all of this in a matter of seconds.
A couple of days ago, while driving just outside Colmar, one such sign urgently piqued our interest : it was pointing the direction of a fruit farm named La Pommeraie, where you could either buy some of their crop, or pick your own -- blueberries in particular.
This sounded like a lot of fun and both of us had always wanted to do such a thing, so we followed the signs and were led to the pick-your-own blueberry fields. No attendant was there, but we read the instructions on a panel, picked up a bucket each, and started working our way through the alleys of blueberry shrubs.
Berry-picking -- it's funny how quickly one learns that kind of skill : at first, you have a hard time spotting the berries, but soon enough your eyes get accustomed to the color contrast and it gets easier to find the branches that are heavy with fruit, and beside which you can just crouch for a few minutes and pick handfuls of plump little berries. And the better you're at it, the more exciting it gets, as your bounty visibly grows and visions of blueberry tarts and blueberry coffee cakes dance before your eyes. (It is also a surefire way to catch a sunburn on your shoulders, trust me.) We were at it for about forty minutes or so before we decided we had more than enough, and headed back in the direction of the farm.
That's when we saw a section that had first escaped our attention, the pick-your-own plum trees -- dozens upon dozens of beautiful leafy trees, positively laden with quetsches and mirabelles. This was an utterly, utterly magical experience for me : I adore plums, quetsches and mirabelles are my two favorite kinds, and this was the first time I had ever seen them directly on the tree, ripe, juicy, and there for the taking.
It may sound a bit strange, after all where did I think plums came from, but I grew up in the city so this was never a part of my world, and I hadn't quite realized the sheer profusion of ripe fruit a tree could bear. I felt like I had been set free in the Garden of Eden, running from tree to tree, looking up in amazement and plucking clumps of these beauties. The purple quetsches with their pointy bottoms, covered with a thin white dust, an unmistakable sign that they've been freshly picked, and which you rub off with your thumb before you bite into the plum and savor the golden flesh, sweet and tart with a slight crunch. The pretty mirabelles, yellow with orange hues and delicate freckles, which you pop into your mouth, where their soft flesh practically melts and leaves you with just the tiny stone.
We picked dozens of them, piling them into our bucket and sampling them like we couldn't believe they were for real, until we had enough to make another three or four desserts and thought okay, it's just the two of us, that should do.
We returned to the main farm building, they weighed our crop (2 kilos of blueberries at 3 €/kg, and 2 kilos of plums at 1 €/kg -- a steal when you're accustomed to paying four times as much), and we also bought a few bottles of their delicious artisanal apple juice, unfiltered and incredibly tasty.
I made a blueberry tart yesterday (which Maxence said was de la tuerie, the French for a killer tart) and we have a blueberry coffee cake cooling down as we speak. Both of them were as loaded with blueberries as I could possibly make them, and we still have about 700g to go...
CD 10 - Sigolsheim
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