A Berry Good Time for Off the Vine by Mike Verano

“This is what I’m talking about,” I said holding up a basket of fresh blackberries from our most recent Off the Vine share. “How about these,” Kath responded holding up a pint of beautiful tomatoes. “I see bruschetta in our future, ” I replied. “Here’s a bag for roasting if there ever was one, “Kath declared as she pulled carrots, onions, and beets out like a magician hauling a rabbit out of a hat.

Popping one of the blackberries into my mouth, I mused over the dessert options, combining them with peaches from out last share and fresh plums from the trees in our front yard. Visions of tarts, turnovers, crumbles and cakes danced in my head.

While we have enjoyed our harvests from Off the Vine throughout the winter and spring months, we knew that this was the time of year that we were going to taste the best that Virginia has to offer. The glory of these months is that not only do meal plans become much easier with the increase in variety, but there are so many things that require no preparation ¾ just rinse, chew, and repeat. Berries, melons, stone fruit, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, all with tastes unmatched by anything sitting in the local grocery store. Then, with just a little tinkering, there will be pickles, jams, salads and pies; all presented with the proud declaration of “Everything in here is local.”

Yes, this is a very good time of the year to be an Off the Vine member. And, just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, melon season is just around the corner.

Plum, Peach & Berry Crumble (adapted from recipe on Epicurious)

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup old-fashioned oats

1/3 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

3/4 pounds plums, halved, pitted, cut into wedges, 3/4 pounds peaches, halved, pitted, cut into wedges, 1 cup blackberries, whole

1 tablespoon plum brandy or Port

Vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt

Mix flour, oats, 1/3 cup sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl. Add butter and rub with fingertips until mixture forms coarse meal. Press with fingertips until mixture begins to form moist clumps. (Crumb topping can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Toss plums, remaining 1/2 cup sugar* and brandy in medium bowl. Transfer to 9-inch deep-dish pie dish. Sprinkle crumb topping over. Bake until fruit bubbles and topping browns, about 1 hour. Cool slightly. Serve with ice cream.

* I substituted Wild Rose Raw Honey from Singers Glen for more of the local flavor

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