Of Kiwi and Tarweed

By the time you read this, these words will have come from a bygone era. Writing is like that, a way to transmute time and space, a way to talk to the people of the future, never knowing exactly who might find these words, like messages in a bottle, adrift on the internet seas. (That the particular future in which you, dear reader, are most likely to find these words exists only a few days from now is but a small detail, as is the fact that we know most of our subscribers by name, as we see your dear faces often across the counters at the Feed and Farm.)

Preservation is another way of bending time and space (and taste and place), and this weeks' recipe for kiwi jam is as good a place to start as any. Kiwis are gorgeous, once you slip them from their hairy brown skins, and somehow taste far more tropical than their fuzzy, heart-shaped, cold-tolerant vines might intimate. (That the kiwi ripens its fruits in the cold of winter only serves to heighten the contrast between season and flavor.) That bright, bright green flesh, sweeter than any other green fruit I can think of. Those tiny black seeds, that flavor that seems akin to strawberry, somehow, yet wholly its own. If you need a little spark of joy to perk you into the new year, this might be the jam for you. Beneath gray skies, the furry brown fruit hides a vibrant, geometric, even electric, interior.

Sometimes it's tempting to stretch a metaphor entirely too far, but we don't intend to do that today. For instance, we would not say that at first glance, the coming year might appear like the unpicked kiwi, a brown and unassuming fruit on a vine that has shed most of the beauty of of its summer leaves. We would not try to equate the latest COVID surges, the prospect of another drear year of isolation and apprehension ahead, to a bristly, seemingly unappetizing kiwi, prickling on the naked vines. That would be a metaphor stretched too thin, even if we tried to paint a picture of the way the coming year might emerge from its modest exterior to show some vibrant, unexpected, fruitful beauty inside. We can make no promises and no assumptions about the coming year -- the year you, people of the future, already exist in. We can only resolve, as ever, to make it the best year that we can, within the constraints that we all are facing. That we have been able to find such joys and satisfactions as we have, amidst the struggle of the last few years, speaks more to mindset and dumb luck than anything else. That, and community, which you, reading this, are most certainly a part of. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you all, those who have supported us by shopping local for gifts and pet food, kitchen goods and green, growing plants. We're happy to be here, entering another year with you all, making food and friends and keeping the home fires lit, even in this cold spell that's got us in its grip just now.

The weatherpersons predicted a winter of decreased rainfall this year, but the recent weeks have done much to restore hope in some sense of seasonally appropriate weather, at least in the short term. Whatever the future holds, we are grateful for the recent rains that have swelled the creeks and reservoirs, and washed the treetops clean and green again, and made the interior Sierra mountains white with snowpack. We're grateful for the barer oot trees that we expect to arrive any day now, and grateful for the wealth of recipes that we are continuously revisiting and tinkering with, trusty maps into territory that never gets old, no matter how many times we visit. It feels like winter now, but on a walk in the forest the other day, we found the first yellow Madia flower of the year, blooming bright and rayed as a child's drawing of the sunshine. That's not a metaphor to be taken any further either. It means only that we live in a world where beauty echoes beauty, and every living thing finds its time and its place to exist, as best and as beautifully as it can. We did not pluck that first weedy flower from its short, tarry stem, but we carry the thought of it with us in our hearts, a small uncomplicated, unexpected bit of beauty in an uncertain world.

Jar of green jam on the shelf, shaft of sunshine through the kitchen window, the nearly hidden rays of a tiny yellow flower. May you be touched in the coming year by such unlooked-for blessings; may they sweeten your days; sticky spoonfuls, tiny delights. Just a drop at a time will last you an entire lifetime. There's no need to hoard such sweetness; the act of savoring it opens the doors to more of the same. Like a chef whose exquisitely tuned palates can detect the finest nuances of ingredients and terroir, may we all become discerning collectors of small, humble joys. We can line them on the pantry shelves of memory, give them away freely, spread them on toast in the morning. Our wishes like a carpet of tiny yellow flowers, blooming earnestly, giving.

by Jessica Tunis