The first time I was exposed to real sustainable living was when the sweetest woman handed me a brown bag full of sweet home grown plums, free of charge.
As a young girl, my parents owned the most peaceful vacation home and hunting cabin in the Catskills. I learned so much on that piece of land there is no explaining the deep rooted connection I have with the place. It was a piece of property at the very top of a mountain surrounded by working farms, thick woodland ecosystems, and fresh mountain run off streams with awe inspiring waterfalls. It was and will forever be, my favorite place in the world.
One of my fondest memories was not only the views from the cabin, but the views of the farms we passed on the drive home. As a part of our vacation ritual, we always stopped on the side of our route at a small homestead farm stand. There was a small trailer set back off the road with a huge garden in front, a masterpiece. All the different crops and fruit trees were growing like weeds in a somehow organized arrangement. On the road was a hand crafted wooden hut, the cornucopia.
Rain or shine, the little woman would come out from her luscious garden and ask you what you'd like. She didn't speak much, but I remember her thick Russian accent and incredibly inviting smile. My parents would let me pick put whatever fruits and vegetables I wanted. Such a treat. I now realize how happy my parents were that I was happy to eat these nutritious vegetables more so than any snacks we would see in a truck stop gas station. I would walk up and say hello to the woman and proceed to touch everything. Any fruit I touched she would throw the prettiest and freshest one into a brown bag. She'd smile as if she were happy to see a child with such wonder in her eyes at the beautiful works of art she worked so hard to grow. It seemed that she were more happy to share her crops with appreciative people more than receiving any payment. She would let me try things I was unfamiliar with, like the tiny plums she'd sell in fall. She handed me a small plum and motioned for me to taste it. She watched me eyes light up as I tasted the sweetest and juiciest plum of my life and smiled.
As I got older and we stopped here to see the woman's offerings, I started to realize how little she asked for her crops and how happy she was just to see the people who would stop in to say hello. When she began to remember me, she would always package up a bag of plums and hand them to me to take home. Never allowing me to pay for them. This memory has stuck with me. I would love this life. To live in a peaceful paradise, live simply, and create joy when I share with my community.
It's been years since I've been there to see the woman on the homestead but I wish I could tell her how she inspired me. This Spiced Plum Vinaigrette recipe is to honor her, and her delicious plums.
Spiced Plum Vinaigrette
2 Plums (Cut into pieces)
3/4 cup water
1 Tbsp Sugar (more of less to taste. If the plums are very sweet you should not need any sugar at all)
Spices: 3 Star Anise, 4 Whole Clove, 5 Allspice, 1 tsp Cinnamon
1 Tbsp Neutral Oil (I use avocado oil)
2 Tbsp White Balsamic vinegar
Pinch of Salt and Pepper
Add plums, water, sugar, and spices to a pot and turn the heat on high. Cook mixture until plums are broken down and water has turned to syrup, about 8-10 minutes.
Remove spices with a spoon and discard.
Add plums and syrup to a blender with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth.
Store in a jar in refrigerator for up to two weeks.
*Be sure to count the spices you add so you will be able to remove all of the spices before blending