Monday, August 16, 2010

Washington Heights Peach?

Last week, because of their birthdays, I had to take my Things to their annual pediatrician appointment. As we were walking home (everyone is good, healthy and growing) my big guy noticed that one apartment building had a peach tree planted in the small flower bed in front of their building. To my amazement the tree was full of nice big ripe peaches. Thing 1 stopped to check it out, because he loves peaches. I think he was a little surprised to see peaches on a tree since he usually sees them at the Farmer's Market or the grocery store.

We do alot of sharing in our city life. We have to share the sidewalk, our playground, our park, our hallways and elevators. With a little brother now, we share all toys and books. I like the idea that our set of toys is communal. We never had too many problems with "mine-itis" and I think that is because we are always sharing things with other people. But this peach tree was not for sharing. We are at an age now when we are talking alot about other people's property, what is appropriate to touch, whose toys you can play with (those abandoned in the playground) and whose you shouldn't (those in someone else's hands).

As we were stopped, having a conversation about the peaches on the tree, the building's Super overheard me saying that Thing 1 shouldn't take a peach from the tree because it belonged to the people who live in that building, nor should he take the peaches off the ground because they were icky or had worm holes. The Super told me that he had just picked some peaches from the tree and that we should take some home. In his truck nearby he had a big bag of peaches, which he told me to go home and wash because of the prickly peach fuzz. As he left to back inside Thing 1 shouted "THANK YOU!" and the Super called after me "These are organic you know, no pesticides or fertilizer or nothing." After dinner Thing 1 reminded me that I had the peaches in my bag and we all ate them for dessert.

What a special treat this was. I read local food blogs all the time and I love the spirit behind supporting your community's food. I love the connection to regionality and where one is on the earth that comes from eating local and indigenous foods. But to me in New York City, eating local means eating foods that were grown 100 miles north in Columbia County, in Northern New Jersey or Long Island. There is alot of amazing food that comes out of these places, but it is not exactly my backyard. It is unfortunate that the patch of earth that feels my footprints every day will likely never sustain me.

There are a few people who have windowsill herb gardens. I know of some friends that are planting some veggie plants in pots in quiet, out of the way outdoor places. There are a couple of community gardens in the city, and there are some very cool people working on a whole roof top farm in Brooklyn. The interest in Urban Farming is growing in our community, but in the borough of Manhattan it is different. Most buildings do not have any outdoor space, and of those that do, most of them are paved areas in the back of the building with little light because of adjacent buildings. I am fortunate that my building has a full backyard and shrubs and a flower garden, but I share this garden with about 1000 other people and I can't just go and rip up the ground for my own personal use. We would all have to agree that that is what we want to do. Our roof is off limits because of liability and insurance issues, but somehow I am going to find a way to have a tomato plant next year...without pissing off my neighbors...I will just have to keep at it and think of a way.

So to sit with the kids on a lovely cool evening with the windows open and a breeze coming in, and eat peaches grown and serendipitously found in Washington Heights, well it was sublime. For us in the concrete maze we call home, to eat from this land is especially sweet.


  1. I've never tried it, but I heard that the Topsy Turvy ( works well for growing tomatoes without land. Maybe that could give you your tomatoes.

    I live in the exact opposite situation of yours, in rural NC without even a stoplight in our town. I can't get grassfed meat for affordable prices & there is no local dairy at all, but local produce we have aplenty. My family has 7 acres of land and we have a garden that is probably 1 acre big. It's amazing how different the experience can be from one state or region to another.

    I'm so glad for you & especially for your boys that you got to have that special experience of sweet local produce, because it is a magical thing.

  2. Thanks for the great comment! I am looking into the upside down tomato thing. I would like to see if I can grow heirloom varities or if I have to grow a special hybrid that grows downward. I was just talking to DH about this last night!

    I am so jealous of your expanse. I would love a little get away farm-maybe some day? I have heard that goats are pretty easy to care for and product quite alot of milk perhaps that is a way to get into grass fed dairy with no local bovine dairy? I have NO IDEA what I am talking about. I read it in the book I am reading, but I am currently obsessed with the idea.