This old fashioned "Juice-O-Mat" is a key ingredient to a sunny Sunday morning. Oh, and our fresh oranges are a big part of this.
EVALUATING THE HEIRLOOM BLUE SQUASH FOR TASTE
Ok, so I had the blues on Sunday, but it wasn't a BAD thing; it was great. For the third or fourth year in a row, we celebrated the squash harvest at Dos Pasos Ranch on Santa Rosa Creek Road in Cambria,with our friends George and Beth Kendall and a cast of other friends we've known for decades.
Every year Beth bakes up a collection of heirloom squash for us to taste and evaluate. From our evaluations, she can make decisions for planting next year's favorites. We all take the task seriously, dipping into the squash, rolling it around in our mouths, and deciding if we would make soup, casseroles, or pies with them. This year she chose a selection of blue squash (some of them turn colors when baked), and we dipped into them with gusto.
The entrance to Dos Pasos Ranch. I am a good customer of their outdoor farm stand, which is kept stocked with squash, gourds, big bouquets, lemons, limes, oranges, and avocados. Their prices are reasonable, the produce is fresh, they have an "honesty piggy bank" (which I LOVE), and the drive out Santa Rosa Creek Rd. has always been one of my favorite–especially when the neighbor's hens are gleaning from along the fence lines.
The old barn and farmstand at the entry to their drive. LOVE these California barns, which are so essential to the survival of barn owls.
Blue-eyed Beth and brawny and brainy husband George tend fields and keep up with the newest offerings of heirloom seed. One drawer in the kitchen is stuffed with seed catalogs. Johnny's Selected Seeds in Maine and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds are two of her (and my) favorites, and many of these squash came from them. That is my sweet husband Jeff behind Beth.
Fresh from the field and fresher from the oven.
Every squash is labeled and in order on the evaluation sheets.
We worked our way down the line, bite by bite. Please note: Double click on the image to see how I rated the squash. Queensland Blue was great, but there were so many good ones.
It looks like Vicki and Dick Greene are having serious deliberations.
No fair comparing notes you two.
Buck and Lucy are less serious.
Part of the joy of this day is the pot luck. Here is an offering of local, freshly picked grapes and some local cheeses. This was so gorgeous it deserved to be immortalized.
About a dozen tables were set up outdoors, either on the back terrace or the wide, welcoming front porch. What could be better than being with good friends, eating fresh local food, (and wines from some attending grape growers), in the rolling, golden California hills?
I'll have to admit, this is one of my favorite people in the world. His family has lived on the rich land of Green Valley in Cambria for over 100 years. He is married to one of my other favorite people, Susie. For many years Susie made the great wreaths at Heart's Ease. She also stepped in when the business got too big for me to keep up and made barrels of pot pourri for me. Susie and I have taught cooking classes in their large country kitchen on the ranch. We're a good team, and we enjoy every minute together.
Beth and George keep their farmstand (and parties) supplied with glorious flowers.
And their land is rich with native perennials like this Zauschneria californica, which is a favorite of hummers.
But one of the best parts of the annual squash tasting is the children. Each year more kids get involved in not only the tastings, but also the fun. Nothing is better than hearing the laughter of happy children...
and the laughter of "Uncle Bruce" who all children love. Bruce owns the famous Squibb House Bed and Breakfast on Burton Drive in Cambria. If you come to the central coast and want to be in the heart of historic downtown Cambria, you'd enjoy staying there.
A few years ago, after taking the UC Davis olive oil intensive class, Jeff and I hosted an olive oil tasting at our home. Twenty two different oils were evaluated (all labels were covered) and we had a ball. Now, I look forward to big crops of a variety of fruits and vegetables. They're a great excuse to host a tasting. Think about it now and plan and plant ahead. You'll be amazed by the enthusiastic response by everyone, even the youngest participants.
Sending joyous wishes to you,
P.S. No matter where you live you'll enjoy my new Lowe's Garden Grow Along blog posting about bringing nature indoors and using it for your holiday decorating. Please drop in and leave me a comment.