by germinatrix | August 3rd, 2010
For those of us who love to grow food, this is the time of year when we really reap the rewards of our hard work. In fact, sometimes we reap like crazy. This year, I am reaping buttloads of tomatoes. What to DO with them once you’ve had caprese salads daily, pasta every way imaginable, sun dried them, salsa’d them, given them to friends… is there anything new do be done with the emblem of the summer garden?
Well, why not make jam?
Fallen Fruit is a Los Angeles based art project that explores notions of urban spaces, neighborhoods, and ideas of community. It began by creating maps of fruit trees growing on and above public land and encouraging foraging. The ideas of foraging and gleaning food from our public and semi-public spaces is rife with social and political implications – a great way to familiarize yourself with these ideas is to see Agnes Varda‘s fantastic documentary The Gleaners & I, made in 2000. Anyway, Fallen Fruit started as a collaboration between three artists, David Burns, Matias Viegener, and Austin Young, and has grown to be an exciting movement that has galvanized many to think about food and our city in a different way. On Sunday, August 1st, they had one of their public Jam Sessions at the LA County Museum of Art, where they encourage people to bring home grown and foraged/gleaned fruit to be jammed – for free, all you needed to do is leave one jar behind.
Well, it was a packed house! People brought fruit galore and were happily chopping and mashing and slicing – everyone was pretty sticky, but it was the right kind of sticky; gooey, messy, foody fun!
While most people brought fruit, Jan and I brought tomatoes – but a tomato IS a fruit, so I felt justified in my jamming endeavors. My jam was going to be yellow and red tomatoes, mint, basil, and jalapenos from my garden, and then some bitter orange and Oro Blanco grapefruit provided by Fallen Fruit. Doesn’t that sound … adventurous?
It was a lively crowd – everybody was excited, talking, sharing recipes, making friends. I made some friends!
Unlike Jan, I love tomatoes and was very excited to see what we would come up with. The recipe was very loose – all we did was chop up our tomatoes and add as much basil, mint, and orange zest as we thought would work. I threw in a few segments of the Oro Blanco grapefruit and a squirt or five of bitter orange. It looked so pretty, I was very excited to find out how to turn this into something I could smear on toast.
Now came the cooking part. There were lots of cooking stations, with adept jammers doing the actual cooking. All we had to do was go up and wait our turn in any one of the lines, and one of the Fallen Fruit volunteers would help us whip up our jams. I chose the line with the pretty girl in the yellow shirt – she seemed like she’d do my tomatoes justice.
While I was waiting my turn in line, I snuck away to have a taste of the other jams people had made – there were tables full of jars of the yummy sweet concoctions, along with bread, crackers, and peanut butter. People were sampling up a storm!
Finally it was my turn to pop my bowl of garden goodness into the communal cooker! My jam making muse, Diana (she of the sunny yellow shirt), wiped off the pot so no trace of apricot or strawberry would taint my tomatoes. I proceeded to dump my chopped up everything into the pot, followed by one half of a cup of pectin (Diana was giving me clear directions) and 3 cups of sugar (I wanted less sugar, but Matias said it would just be salsa if I didn’t make it sweet. So, sugar, LOTS of it!).
The cooking was easy – we stirred and covered it, then waited for it to boil, stirred some more, more boiling, then added the mint and basil right before the final boil. I ended up with four jars of JAM! I was very honored that the lovely Diana asked me for one of my jars. I felt special. So I went home from the Jam Session with three jars of tomato mint basil jalapeno citrus gold – all homegrown or Los Angeles foraged. It was a good feeling.
Thank you LACMA, thank you Fallen Fruit, Matias, and Diana – it was a wonderful afternoon and a great way to activate the community. In a city where the citizenry are as famously insular as Los Angeles, you managed to create a vibrant, exciting place to meet people, to celebrate our city and one of its most unique qualities – food dangling right before our eyes, at every corner, within easy reach. Thank you for encouraging us to reconsider the public and the private, and to use our resources. And thank you for doing this in such a fun, lighthearted way. I’m a fan. A fan of public jamming.