An Ode to the Grower
Growing delicious food is an art. And a skill. The loveliest, tastiest peach doesn’t just appear on a tree growing anywhere. It must be cultivated. And it must be loved. The farmers and gardeners (The Growers) I know who raise the best food have passion and commitment. Last year, John was out in the fields 7 days a week. Covering the cucurbits and nightshades with row-cover when an incredibly late frost was about to hit, weeding beets well into the evening, checking and re-checking irrigation, watching the haricots vert for bean beetles, transplanting flat after flat of lettuce, and picking okra (relentless, itchy okra) all hours of the day. And Hannah & Bernadette (with superior knowledge and experience), Stephen & I were absorbing and assisting along the way . He had to know when to seed, when to plant, when and how to properly harvest, where to plant, and how far apart. He could identify pests and diseases, knew which nutrients each crop needed, how much and when they should be watered, which fields were best for which crops (the potatoes turned out amazing at the top of the hill & the melons were fabulous growing at the bottom). He knew how best to handle, wash, and store them, and even when to give up on a failed crop that got too much water or weeds we couldn’t control. John is an artist. And you can taste it in everything he grows. Best potatoes I’ve ever tasted in my life. He’s also a teacher, teaching me easily as much as I learned in the two years I studied to earn a masters.
In those last two years, on the farm and in the classroom, I’ve learned an incredible amount about global and local food production. When I began my master’s degree in global environmental policy, I regarded the current state of environmental degradation as distinctly the fault of our own kind. And then I chose to specialize in food & agricultural policy. The one area (of which I know) in which humans have historically had an overwhelmingly beneficial impact on the environment. By saving seeds and cultivating them year after year, we have selected traits and developed a wealth of crop varieties (I ♥ biodiversity). Simultaneously establishing a foundation of knowledge about how to grow them. These crops are distinct to the people who grow them and the places where they are grown. They have adapted to climates and become resilient to harsh conditions. Only by continuing to grow and save the seeds of heirlooms, can our food continue to adapt. Only by learning, can we grow. So thank you to every Grower for learning and teaching and growing. And especially thank you, County Line Orchard, for the incredible variety of fruit you grow & for these perfect peaches.
This Peach Upside Down Cake is really lovely. And vegan. The fruit is really the highlight (when isn’t it?). It’s moist and soft, not too sweet. I HIGHLY recommend serving it with a little whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. The complementary combination is just too good to ignore. I use an 8 inch cast iron skillet but I imagine you could easily use a cake or pie pan also (baking time may need to be adjusted slightly.
- 2 Tbsp Coconut Oil
- ¼ Cup Brown Sugar (or demerara, etc.)
- Pinch of Salt
- 3 Peaches, pitted & thinly sliced
- ¼ Cup Coconut Oil
- 1 Cup Almond Milk
- 1 Tbsp Lime Juice (or lemon)
- ½ Cup Brown Sugar
- ¼ - ½ Tsp Salt
- 1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
- Pinch Each Cinnamon & Nutmeg
- 1½ Cups Flour (All Purpose or Whole Wheat Pastry)
- 2 Tsp Baking Powder
- Over low heat, melt the coconut oil in the bottom of your cast iron skillet. (Alternatively, melt coconut oil and spread evenly in the bottom of cake/pie pan.) Sprinkle evenly with brown sugar, creating a nice layer. Sprinkle a nice pinch of salt over the brown sugar layer. Remove from heat. Layer the peaches in a spiral (or however you like, really, just get 'em in there) gently over the brown sugar layer. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- In a medium size mixing bowl, combine almond milk and lime juice. Stir gently and let sit for 1 minute. Add coconut oil. Microwave entire mixture in 30 second increments until coconut oil has melted (time will vary with temperature of your almond milk). Whisk in brown sugar, salt, vanilla, cinnamon & nutmeg. Add flour and baking powder and mix evenly.
- Pour cake batter over the peaches in the bottom of your pan.
- Bake for 32 to 40 minutes, or until cake begins to turn golden and springs back when touched. (Undercooking the cake will negatively affect the texture.)
- Let cool for about 10 minutes before flipping onto a serving plate. ***If you don't wait long enough, the sauce will go everywhere. If you wait too long, it might begin to stick in the pan and won't slide out easily.