ORCHARD: WINTER KEEPERS, COOKERS & CIDERS, with UK'S JAMES RICH
This last week of February, we return to our love of apples – and the warm comfort of eating and cooking with home grown ones, a particular joy in late February when spring and summer seem close but also still too far away. We’re in conversation with the UK’s James Rich. James is a family man, a writer, a cidermaker’s son and the descendant of many generations of orchardists. As a chef he is also the author of orchardist and chef and author of Apple: Recipes from the Orchard, as well as his latest Orchard: Sweet and Savoury Recipes from the Countryside.
Somerset-born and bred, cider-maker's son, James and his family have been making a living from apples for centuries. James grew up helping his dad at work: planting the orchards, pressing the apples to gather the juice, and even helping to clean the giant 5,700-litre (10,000-pint) oak vats that are used during the fermenting process. A passionate home cook, as a child James was encouraged to explore food and flavour in the kitchen by his grandmother, who showed him the basics and helped develop his cooking. He now divides his time between Somerset and living in London, working as a food writer and brand consultant.
I caught up with James in late November, and I knew this would be a warming conversation for this time of year - as winter storms are predicted across the US this coming weekend!
You can follow James Rich online at: https://www.jamesrichcooks.com/ ; and on Instagram: @james_rich/
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JOIN US again next week, when we kick off Women’s History Month in conversation with the acclaimed Rebecca Solnit, writer and thinker sharing more about her newest work Orwell’s Roses - exploring the importance and history of plants and place in the life and work of George Orwell. Listen in.
Cultivating Place is made possible in part by generous support from The Catto Shaw Foundation, supporting initiatives that empower women and help preserve the planet through the intersection of environmental advocacy, social justice, and creativity.
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Speaking of Plants and Place.....
Because I just can’t compete with the mouthwatering plants from their places recipes provided by James this week, Speaking of Plants and Place will be back next week. But don’t forget, now is the time to finish up much of your winter pruning of apple, pear, persimmons and other fruit trees (read up to see which ones want pruning in summer after they fruit), and it is also the time that bare-root trees begin to be available in your best local nurseries.
Happy fruit tree orchard planning and dreaming while you savor your winter fruit galette and glass of warm apple brandy or cider. How better to end February?
Thinking out loud this week:
Did you hear that comment in passing from Rich, who as a younger person thought that in his home region “There just wasn’t very much there.”
Who else felt that as young adult? Who feels that now? but is it true? Have you seen the mountains? Wandered the prairies? Met the plant friends and foods of your own back yard?
Look around – and look again. There’s always more to see, to know, to love and to care for.
And while this is a story of food – food grown and born of place, I am taken by how much that is equated with a reciprocal idea of LOVE generally for James, and he shares it forward. He was – as we all were – scared and anxious and in need of comfort throughout the pandemic. He went home as it were and felt the spaces of his family’s orchards as loving arms around him. And these same orchards and trees offered he and his family nourishing and delicious food.
The apples were the plants, the orchard were the places and the people have been caring and are cared for in return.
It’s not a complicated equation is it?
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