Monday, August 8, 2011

The Beach Farm

Frank and Betsy broke ground in their beach farm just over a year ago. On Friday evening Vince and I visited them there for the first time; the occasion, simply, summer. There were tomatoes to pick, lamb ribs to braai.

There are some picnic tables next to this compact collection of plots out on the Rockaways (Queens), across the water of Jamaica Bay in Fort Tilden (federal parkland, previously a home to nuclear weapons pointed at the USSR), and permit holders - the gardeners - are allowed to barbecue out there beside their crops. And, as I gathered, to drink! In the open. State land says no, federal land says yes. Well, hooray.

The plastic cups upended over poles and sprinkler heads to scare birds in neighbouring plots oscillate in the wind from the ocean, and sound improbably but convincingly like a large flock of waterfowl just settled onto their feeding grounds for the night: a low, numerous, unending chuckle and exchange. Perhaps they attract birds?

The cilantro has bolted, as it always seems to, everywhere, and I think it is worth it for the flowers. 

There were tomatoes galore, these warm and sweet...

Beans in a small patch grew rich and profuse and we picked and picked.

...and picked.

He picked, too.

Frank handed me huge tomatoes to put in the basket.

The farmers. 

And then to other business.

Thirsty work. I found a new favourite sparkler at Heights Chateau, and am hooked: Mionetto Sergio rose. Perfect for an evening in a salty breeze, beside the chatter of the cups and a table groaning with fresh produce.

Betsy soon sliced up a Brandywine ( I think) and a Black Russian. I said, and still say, that these tomatoes were the most delicious I have eaten (I ate our own Brandywine on Sunday night on the roof and have to say it came pretty darn close...).

I attacked some cherry tomatoes and the burrata I brought from Staubitz (butcher) on Court Street. Basil came from the farm.

Our second course was fennel-spiked sausages, with a squeeze of lemon and a charred leek scape. Frank said it was "an Italian American thing". We said it was a superb thing.

Russian beer was produced. Lamb ribs grilled slowly on the hardwood coals. 

Later we ate the cherry pie I had brought and the red harvest moon sank on the western horizon, over Jersey. Fire trucks roared to an emergency. A helicopter with a searchlight scoured the water of the bay and beach repeatedly. Another joined it. The cups chattered on and the wind died down. We could hear the surf.

We packed up in the dark and drove to the beach at Jacob Riis where we watched a massive tractor groom the sand, up and down, up and down in the dark, somewhere before midnight, the waves crumbling white stripes in the black sea. Ships waited out on the water to come in to New York Harbor.

That was Friday. A whole world away.


  1. Awesome looking garden. Our is kaput.... excessive heat and no rain... we're talking 100 degree + for at least 3 weeks. No canning this year. Nothing.. :(

  2. it's great to see a photo of the farmers. frank is very elusive in his own blog.

    what a magnificent harvest & meal.

  3. Wonderful garden! This year I grew Brandywines for the first time and grinned hugely when I tried the first ripe one.. this is what tomatoes should taste like!

  4. The beans ! Tomatoes ! And the meal! I am green with envy. And please, don't eat all the brandywine because I would love some seed.

  5. Beans Green and Yellow

    In fall
    it is mushrooms
    gathered from dampness
    under the pines;
    in spring
    I have known
    the taste of the lamb
    full of milk
    and spring grass;
    it is beans green and yellow
    and lettuce and basil
    from my friends’ garden –
    how calmly,
    as though it were an ordinary thing,
    we eat the blessed earth.

    - Mary Oliver

  6. Also - any details about the beer? My ex claims Russian beer doesn't exist and I'd love to stick it to him just a little, tiny bit. ;)

  7. Kellye - 100 plus for 3 weeks!!! I am sorry.

    donna - yes, true. Exposed.

    Val - me too. Very happy with our own, too, which, of course, was a (teenage)seedling from Frank!

    Hen, yes, I really thought of you, and the Bloemfonten beans. Shall save. They are big.

    Carrie - thank you - quite lovely.

    And, since sticking it to ex's is perhaps one of life's most underrated pleasures:

    Stick it to him, good. It was nice beer. We had No. 5.

  8. What a wonderful garden, wonderful day, wonderful meal. Jealousy pours from my pores!

  9. Beans where what me me fall in love with gardening as a child - prolific, colorful and such interesting names.

    Thanks for the beer info. Consider him stuck. ;)

  10. Beans were my childhood produce. In a cup in 4th grade, then to eat - just picked at Grandma's.

    Those cups are a chatter, the birds don't think twice of them.

    Baltika 3,4,5,7,9 and others? I like 5.

    Donna, too little face time? I've no mirrors in the garden!

    Thanks Marie and Vince for coming out!


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