I've found something better than kale - kale flowers.
The cute guy insists on calling this new food broccoli, but it's not. It's kale before it's gone to seed, before the flowers have had a chance to bloom. And it's baby kale leaves on tender stems; perfect to eat raw. Which is what I did, chopped into a salad with coins of carrots, greens and avocado.
The stems provided a satisfying crunch, the baby leaves a taste of living on a farm (my constant dream) and the scatter of kale buds simply looked pretty. Which is precisely why I bought the kale flowers to begin with. The taste is a cracker jack surprise.
To the tell the truth I thought I was buying broccoli with a purple green mixed in. The stems are identical to young off shoots and without glasses the leaves looked the same too. Thankfully another shopper asked the grower what it was. I would have simply called it, that funny broccoli.
Now that I know though, I will enjoy kale primarily as a means to get to this sweet time of the blossoms.
Yesterday I bought shelled walnuts from a man with Einstein eyebrows.
"We crack them ourselves at the beginning of the season. It gives the year a rhythm." He smiled.
"But then I have them shelled for thirty cents a pound by machine. I pay the workers two dollars when they do it. To make it worth their while." He straightened a bag. "But the machine nicks them."
I couldn't see nicks. I was calculating how many walnuts I might shell in an hour; five pounds, six, eight? I doubted it.
It was a short conversation but had me wondering how much food is handled by machine and how much is managed by hand.
I heard a young farmer, a woman in her 20's, speak this weekend. She talked about the people that sweat and labor over the food we consume. She spoke of eating as a communion, creating the connection we have with the farms and the people in the fields as an intimate one.
She made me cry.
And appreciate the difference between hand and machine shelled walnuts all the more.
The ladies and gentlemen at the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, an organization that works for the human rights of the tomato Florida pickers, is receiving some very good press recently.
I first saw them mentioned on the cover of Gourmet magazine and immediately bought a copy. And then I found a terrific two part article about them at Grist.
To sum up the two articles the men and women who pick 90% of the tomatoes eaten in the US during the months of November through May are working and/or living in slave like conditions. All of which we unknowingly support each time we eat a Florida grown tomato in the winter and early spring months.
It's not all bad news though. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is making strides since I first heard of them in 2007 but not enough to make those tomato tasty.
Gourmet offers their best solution to buying slave-free fruits: buy seasonal, local and small scale. I like that.
I almost forgot. There's also this film being shown next week about Immokalee, Florida too.
I've been watching the white petals of the tree next door scatter on the walkway to our home. They make me think of weddings, naturally of spring but mostly of the plums I picked last summer. I wonder what the harvest will bring this year.
Will l be able to taste the petals in the fruit or this misty rain weekend? I wonder if the fence between neighbors will define a taste, the way it's warped, crooked in places, or if the plums will only taste of the sun, the bees that picnic in our yards and the black cat that makes a play ground of fences, trees and arbors.
Did the February storms tattoo the pits we'll find inside or have the flock of dark breasted brown birds picked away everything from the trees that ever hoped of becoming a fruit?
All I can do for now though, is wonder.
I really have been reading. It's so wonderful! Here's a review I just put up at the bookworm blog ...
This is the first book I've read by Terry Tempest Williams although I've heard her name in the distance for years. And the truth is I set the book down after the first 35 pages and it was only by chance I picked it up after two weeks and began again. The second time I barely set it down until I turned the last page though.
Finding Beauty opens with TTW's experience with making mosaic in Italy, the metaphor of which is carried through the remainder of the book. I could have done without this part but the art ties the remaining two seemingly disparate sections of the book together.
The first half, after the opening, is about prairie dogs. Yeah, I know. Prairie dogs. I saw one once and have never given them another thought. Given their shrinking numbers I'll likely never see one again either. And I was fascinated with them.
TTW spends two weeks with a leading prairie dog researcher in the Utah desert observing the dogs 14 hours a day. Her observations are all over the map. They're part memoir, part poetry, part educational, humor, despair, part hope. I fell in love with prairie dogs. They live in communities, communally nurse the young and are brilliant in their contribution to the natural landscape. And they have language. It's amazing.
The second half of the book is about the author's experience in Rwanda with a group of artists building a memorial in a survivors town. It's a world away from the Utah desert but TTW ties it in with the mosaic metaphor. I appreciated reading the ways in which the Rwanda people are healing. And it was hard to read what individual people went through, are still going through. But there's beauty; the never ending beauty of spirit, of community, of courage and renewal. A miracle really.
I not only learned about prairie dogs and the people of Rwanda from reading this book but it reminded me to look for beauty in the broken places too. My only disappointment is I can't read it for the first time again.