Harvest Breakfast

When our friends came to help us pick one ton of our Merlot grapes a couple of weeks ago, I made a harvest breakfast for us all.  You have to look after the workers!  I love using everything we grow in our garden for these breakfasts and in a previous post, I'd listed the menu.

We started with all-day-long oat bites - one of my staples and then had a parfait with berries, homemade marmalade granola (no sugar added) and homemade soy yoghurt.  I have to tell you that the highlight in my kitchen in the last few months has been my homemade soy yoghurt.  I'll share my recipe for it in the next day or two, but it has changed my life! I love it so much and its only 4 ingredients!  But, I digress.... the parfait was a blackberry base layer, then yoghurt, then granola, then raspberry, then yoghurt then granola.  Topped with fresh mint.


Then there was a a fig frittata, and also a roasted vegetable flat bread, with homemade sun-dried tomato hummus as its base - on a gluten free flax base:


Then came the an apple banana bread with an almond drizzle, and a discussion on whether sweet and savory dishes should be served on the same plate - or even on the same plate at the same time!!!   It is obvious that there is a big difference between Americans and British!!!

To finish -  the lemon cheesecake - dairy free, sugar free, gluten free ( and served on clean plates!!) Topped with citrus caviar!  Made with cashew nuts for the "cheese" and dates and almonds for the base.


And of course, it was our 10th harvest, so we did have to get out our ten year old Birdland Merlot wine to see how it was doing - and by the time we ate, it was lunch time!!  Every year we change the color of our wine label - our first year was yellow, as you can see below.  I wonder what color we'll choose for our 10th year?


Everyone seemed to enjoy the ending of our harvest


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Got any grapes?

When Evelina arrived just over a week ago, we learned a new song - which is the cute Youtube at the bottom of this post.  It's all about a duck that asks "got any grapes?".


All week we've been singing "waddle, waddle, waddle", etc - but the song was very apropos yesterday as we were harvesting our one ton of Merlot grapes.  Yes, we definitely did have some grapes.


Craig, Chui and Evelina all helped with the harvest - as did some singing friends of mine (even though they didn't know the "got any grapes?" song) - Carol, Andy and Jeremy.  We picked for about 3 hours - each working in pairs either side of the vines.

All the grapes went in to half ton bins and on a truck John had rented.  They then went off for their custom crush in Sonoma.

It was a lovely morning. It always feels so connecting to the earth and also to friends to work together on the land.

I know you can't wait to hear the duck song, so here it is!:

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Tastiest food of the week - Frozen grapes

I'm starting a new weekly blog post - "tastiest food of the week", where I'll share with you the yummiest food I've eaten each week.  Maybe it'll encourage you to give it a try.

I can see that some weeks  - like this first one - are going to be difficult to pare it down to only one item....but this week's winner is FROZEN GRAPES.

Frozen Godello grapes
From the last few weeks of blog posts, you've probably already gathered that we have a vineyard and grow grapes for wine making.  We sell the grapes, but of course, at this time of year, don't ever really have a shortage for ourselves.

We grow some eating grapes/table grapes on our arbor which for the past few years, I've dehydrated most of to make raisins/sultanas.  But after last week's harvest, we had a big bucket of Godello grapes and some bunches of Merlot grapes. You can't eat them all fresh, so I froze them.  Have you ever had frozen grapes? If not - freeze some now!  Nothing to do - just wash them, let them dry and then pop them in the freezer. You can take them off the stalk if you want, but it's not necessary. They'll freeze in a couple of hours.

Frozen wine grapes
Then pop them in your mouth and you will do a happy dance! The outer layer - the skin, breaks away in your mouth first and then the cool flavors of the grape dissolve and excite your taste buds.  You get all the flavors of the grapes/wine coming through.  Using wine grapes is amazing as you really get all the complexity of wine in a frozen little bubble of fruit.

Our wine grapes have pips in them, but I still like them frozen and don't notice the pips, probably because you just swallow the melting delight before the pips have separated from the flesh.

Frozen Merlot grapes

And because it takes some time to eat them, allowing them to melt in your mouth and fully enjoy the flavors, I find a don't eat too many.

Try them one night when you are watching a movie - a great alternative to chocolate or ice cream or popcorn.  Or take them to party or picnic or..... But watch when it comes to sharing them, as you want to keep plenty for yourself for the rest of the year until next grape harvest!!!
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Merlot Harvest 2012

A week ago today, we were busy harvesting 22 tons of Merlot grapes! Phew.


The vineyard management crew began at 4am - in the dark with little lights on their heads to find the grapes!  I don't have a light, so that was my excuse to wait until the sun was up!



Harvest day is always one of the best days of the year. It's such a grounding, connect to nature experience to be in the vines all day, reaping the fruit, surrounded by the noises and chatter....and there were ducks on the pond, a great blue heron and deer all watching on.



As well as the vineyard crew - 12 pickers plus two others driving the tractors and loading the fruit etc, we had four friends join us to help with pulling the leaves out of the bins. The 2 ton capacity bins are pulled through the vineyard as the guys throw the grapes in, and we stand on little planks of wood at the side, diving in to get out the leaves.  As a result of having 4 friends with us, I think our fruit is probably the cleanest in terms of no leaves of any harvested in California! We did such a great job.





The "4" also picked some of the left over Godello from the previous week, to sharpen their picking skills.

The harvest was nearly 3 weeks early for us this year.  And the fruit looked and tasted perfect. The right sugar levels, the right acidity - it just all came together.


And we had some lively conversations over the grape bins - and some interesting times, for example when Mike leaned in to the bottom of the bin to get some leaves, but his feet came off and he teeter-tottered on the edge, not being able to get back up! Unfortunately, we didn't have our camera at this stage!


At 10.30am we stopped for a brief break and then were all finished at 1pm, when it was time for a harvest lunch outside, followed by some grape stomping.  Only Jeremy and I were up for stomping - the others had pathetic excuses, I can tell you!!!!  But J and I had fun and I'm sure they were then all envious that they didn't have sticky legs!!!!

First time stomper nerves from Jeremy..."do I really want to do this????"


It has been suggested that we need to use a larger bucket!

Hopefully from the photos you can see what a fun time it was.  Are you ready to sign up to join in next year????
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(Mini) Grape Harvest

Linda and Stephen
Last week we harvested our Godello grapes.  We grafted this varietal on 300 vines a couple of years ago and so this is really our first harvest of any quantity of them.

Meta and Jane

Godello is a Spanish varietal of green grapes and not typically grown in the US - except here at Birdland!  We were asked to try growing it by a couple of local wine makers and it was pleasing to see a good crop for them to make our first US Birdland Godello wine.

Don - who later had a bad back!
Instead of using our usual vineyard management group to harvest these, we invited some friends to experience the fun as we were expecting only a ton or so.  However, the Godello were a little more difficult to harvest than we had imagined.

John
As bunches of grapes, they grow as a mass and are quite solid as a bunch - not individual grapes.  Most of the time you can't see where the top stalk is, where you want to cut the bunch off, and they get wound up in the wires and leaves....It therefore took us much longer than we expected to harvest the 1.5 tons.
Ken
We wore out our friends - and ourselves!  Even the harvest breakfast I made (which was all gluten free, dairy free and refined sugar free) didn't quite leave us kicking up our heels! I think what would have been better would be to have had a massage therapist waiting for us all!


Tomorrow is the Big Grape Harvest, as opposed to the mini grape harvest. It is of our merlot grapes and we are expecting something like 20 tons!  It is earlier in October than usual for us - the grapes have ripened well.  
Fig Clafoutis
This time, our vineyard management crew will come in  - starting at 4am in the dark!  A few friends will help out by pulling out the leaves in the bins, but we won't be picking as we'd slow the crew down!

Kale puffs
Wish us luck for tomorrow!
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