In my mind, the bardic arts involve not only the expression of personal Awen, but also the preservation and transmission of beauty — as with the unbidden blessings of Nature’s Bounty. We have planted 14 fruit trees, and an assortment of fruiting shrubs in our yard, scattered bits of orchard, interwoven with our CA native ecosystem. Much of the fruit is intended for local wildlife, our brethren of the hills. But what do you do with a bumper crop of lemons? or apples? or plums? or pyracantha berries? What happens when you and the wildlife, in concert, are unable to consume so much fresh fruit?
The natural world runs on a gift economy. That means, surplus delights are intended to flow like water from one being to another, freely, building community, building relationships, building networks of mutual caring and responsibility. And to simply chuck piles of beauty, created by the divine essence of Nature, into the compost heap seemed like throwing a blessing in the trash. I just could not do it.
And so, I started hand-crafting culinary delights which would capture the full power of those flavors, in a manner that would preserve them for later use by us, or by friends and neighbors with whom we chose to share that blessing. The results, so far:
A sampling of homemade hazelnut, lemon, and cherry cordials. With gallons of refills in reserve, this makes for delightful drinking all year through, and easy holiday gift-giving.
A smattering of jams, jellies, and fruit-butters — with much less sugar and much more flavor than anything you could buy in a store, at any price point. My greatest discoveries last year included the mind-blowing flavor of plum butter made from Santa Rosa plums with skins left in, the delightful floral flavor of pyracantha berry jelly (also know as “firethorn” jelly), and the unbelievable flavor of captured sunshine that is evident in lemon curd made from lemons left on the tree until they are VERY ripe, and nearly orange in color. Wow!
I have also found that the joy received from giving away that preserved, harvest bounty is another blessing in my life.