I cringe when I think about all of the food that people throw away from their refrigerators including leftovers they never get around to finishing or produce that’s been forgotten in the bottom bin, turning moldy and rotten. It ties in with my problems with our overreaching societal attitude that more is better therefore we must have more than we can potentially use rather than learning to gauge economically and efficiently what we need to consume. It also makes me reflect on all those people in the world who know what true hunger is and those people in our country who line up at food banks hoping for just a piece of bread and perhaps, if they’re lucky, a piece of fruit on any given day. I also get discouraged when I see gorgeously filled citrus trees overflowing people’s backyards or bounties of fruit in large pastures in the middle of nowhere where the fruit is merely dropping and dying on the ground with no one around to enjoy what nature is so amply providing.
Sometimes this food obsession makes me do funny things. Recently, at the State Capitol I found myself taking a fresh orange that had fallen from a massive lawn tree onto the ground. The drop had split it wide open yet I still carried it in the car cooler until the Cute Gardener and myself could share it on a long drive home from up North. It somehow pleased me that the bright citrus treat, full of syrupy juice, might be a regular staple to all of the homeless who called Sacramento home. The last time I took a trip out of town for a few days, I gathered up a bag of things that would go to waste or turn stale from my kitchen including a box of chocolate halva, a few random sea salt caramels and a box of Ak Mak crackers. I rode my bike along the beach until I found a stranger sitting alone with a backpack on a stray bench on the sand and asked if he wanted some food. He turned out to be a hitchhiking hippie kid from Joshua Tree with a daisy in his ear who told me he was Jewish and missed halva from his youth.
Oftentimes, I dream of becoming a guerilla food rescuer and mapping out a plan to scour the neighborhoods and forage fruit so that I can take it into the schools and provide it (along with a little true food education) to kids for free; the same kids who think cheap and preservative-rich gummy oranges and fruit roll ups are ample sources of vitamin C. Or, I could take it to the local homeless shelters and give it away to all those who need to eat. It seems silly that legalities surrounding feeding people and making food and serving food do stand between the hungry and someone who merely wants to feed. I know why many of these rules are in place, yet it still disheartens me to see such a glaring disconnect between the uneaten food I encounter daily and those who could benefit from it who inhabit the very same streets.
A week ago during the Lunar Eclipse I received a message from a dear friend about the special energies an eclipse brings to our personal sphere of intentions. He told me that instead of working on my normal to do list like any other day, that I should instead go out into the world and do something that brings me pure joy, that is in line with my higher self, and that denotes a bit of my true inner passions. He said that doing so would create a powerful energy around my existence the way prayer does and that I would be fortified with grace for the day along with something a tiny bit magical. That was all I needed to hear to jump on my bike and head off to my friend’s house to raid her loquat tree.
I had been riding the streets of Venice Beach for a week and noticing the trees along the way that were bursting with clusters of the small pale yellow fruits (otherwise known as Japanese plums) that reminded me of overgrown apricots. I was dying to taste them, dying to save them from imminent death and invisibility in the eyes of the people who owned the homes they were connected to; and although they were clearly feeding the birds because I noted so many sidewalks lined with their tiger’s eye hued, golden brown and metallic large seeds, I was hankering for ways to figure out how to use them to feed actual people.
After half an hour on a ladder with a picker, I bicycled home with a bag of about 100 of the luscious fruits. As I was picking, a dozen or so fell to the ground and splattered their better halves across my shoes, so I ended up eating the remains of many of those as a snack and was delighted by the subtle, mellow sweetness of the fruit which oddly enough came embedded with three pits a piece. I spent the rest of the afternoon in a classical music and cooking coma making marmalade – or what I have come to call Lunar Eclipse Loquat Love Jam.
The recipe is super simple. You take however many loquats it is that you have and wash them. Then cut the ends off, pop out the three seeds from within and put the remains in a pan. Cover the loquats just to their tops with water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn down the heat and simmer for about fifteen minutes, mashing up the loquats with a potato masher every few minutes. If you are a purist and want smooth jam you can then immersion blender the liquid before the next step but I prefer my marmalade chunky so I skip that step. Measure how much liquid and fruit you have at this point and add one half of that amount in organic sugar. I had six cups from about 50 loquats and therefore added three cups of organic sugar. Stir all together and bring to a boil again. Once boiling, turn down to simmer again and do so for one to two hours, stirring every so often, until the color is tawny and the texture is rich and sticky. It took me two hours to get there. Then put into sealed mason jars and refrigerate. Because of the purity of the recipe, the jam needs to be eaten within a week.
I came away from my afternoon jam session with five solid jars full and immediately started divvying up the sweetness into tiny Tupperware for my friends. I got back on my bicycle and started riding the streets of Venice delivering them to random people in an inspirational way. One of my closest friends who is pregnant received some to please herself and the growing spirit inside her. My loquat donor received a package of her own upon her doorstep. Another friend currently in the throes of heartache received one to take on an outdoor sleepover. And I reserved a jar for the Cute Gardener along with some special cocktail syrup I had made for him from the few remaining fruits in my kitchen after returning home that evening spent from the outpouring of love on my own very special lunar eclipse.
I may not be able to feed the world or save all of the ignored and abandoned fruit of the land, but I can do my own little part from my heart when the urge of the wild moon calls.
P.S. While writing this, I came across an amazing website called Neighborhood Fruit that connects people who want to find fruit with people who want to share fruit. I will be exploring this intensely over the next few weeks.