Wednesday, December 3, 2014

a summer story about Mr. Taki's Damson plums, and how Ayako turns them into the most amazing jam

this past August I took a little day trip to visit Mair Farm-Taki, an organic fruit farm run by a man named Katsumi Taki in Wapato. (i’ve been having fun looking through the photos and remembering that hot day in late August -- such a big difference from the chilly times we're having now!)

i went to Mair Farm-Taki to learn more about Damson plums, and how Mr. Taki grows them in the traditional Japanese way for Ayako & Family Jams. i fell in love with Ayako's Damson plum jam several years ago when i discovered it at Marigold & Mint in Melrose Market, where Ayako can often be found arranging flowers. Ayako’s Damson variety immediately turned me into a jam lover. it’s delicious on pretty much anything (toast, scones, plain yogurt), but i especially love it atop chocolate ice cream.

i have since fallen in love with Ayako herself. she is such a sweet, graceful woman whose kindness just sort of radiates, and i think that's probably why all of her jams taste so amazing. this summer, when Ayako offered to give me a tour of the farm and introduce me to Mr. Taki, i jumped at the chance. i'd read about traditional Japanese fruit farming, and Ayako had intriguing things to say about Mr. Taki...

before i dove into learning about the farm, the first thing i was struck by when i arrived was Ayako's amazing apron. this woman is grace herself. she designed the apron herself, so that the straps would sit just right on her shoulders, and cross in the back, never overheating or straining her neck. she had a Japanese seamstress friend make the apron out of a gorgeous ebony linen, and i have high hopes that she'll be making and selling them soon.

i pulled myself away from Ayako's perfect style and got my head back into the farm tour! Mr. Taki told me amazing stories about learning organic farming practices working at an orphanage in Okinawa in the 1970s and '80s. he and the children started using manure (and whatever else was available) to grow produce -- as food for the kids, yes, but also as a thing to keep the kids busy! after divinity school, and life as a missionary, and teaching agriculture in New Guinea (!), Mr. Taki bought the Wapato farm in 1994 and the land hadn't been farmed in 8 years, so going organic was easy. (since the land hadn't been exposed to pesticides in more than 7 years.) 

when he bought the farm, Mr. Taki planted plum and apple trees, and later added several types of Asian pear. he started with a small amount of Damson Plums, then planted a few more, and the Damson trees have expanded since. (Damson trees are actually invasive: their roots connect and multiply underground!) the farm now grows more than 20 kinds of plums, in addition to apricots, ginger, cucumbers, melons, tomatoes, squash, and the list goes on and on. it's amazing how much and what variety Mr. Taki can grow in a small plot of land. it was so refreshing and such a different experience than driving by huge farms of a single crop.

Ayako and Mr. Taki's partnership started when Ayako started helping Mr. Taki sell produce at the U District Farmers Market (you can still find him there on saturdays). he soon asked her if she wanted to come help out at the farm, and Ayako started making jam with Mr. Taki’s extra plums. now Ayako makes and sells more than a dozen plum jam flavors, along with flavors like Mr. Taki's apricot and rhubarb, that vary seasonally.
“Taki San has taught me a lot,” Ayako told me. “It’s wonderful to have this relationship with a farmer. We communicate a lot, I am very fortunate.”

Mr. Taki and Ayako have a really charming working relationship. in fact, Mr. Taki told me he hopes to one day graft a new kind of plum and name it for Ayako. i mean, how sweet is that?

getting to know these two has been such a treat, and i’m thrilled that we’re selling Ayako & Family Jam in the shops right now along with our holiday sundae gift-kits! (and in our new square market.) and i hope you come try our newest concoction: the Ayako Sundae. we’re keeping it simple -- melted chocolate ice cream, Ayako & Family Damson Plum Jam, Theo Chocolate chunks, whipped cream and a Chukar cherry -- to let the sweet-tart flavor of Mr. Taki's amazing Damson plums shine through!  

♥ molly moon

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Photography by Sonja Lyon.

1 comment:

theycallmesonj said...

Yay! What a beautiful Summer throwback and reminder that I need to try the Ayako Sundae asap.