AgriCulture: The Fruit Tree Liberation Front

This morning’s breakfast fruit, mixed with yoghurt and granola, included raspberries, Asian pear, Bosc pear, a tasty heirloom apple planted three years ago whose variety I cannot remember, and a very yellow peach, all picked here. There is something lovely about foraging your breakfast fresh every morning.

You may recall that I announced the end of peach season several weeks ago. So I believed. But growing things always has a way of bringing surprises. The peach we ate this morning was harvested from what I believed to be a Shiro plum tree.

For years, we had two lovely shiro plum trees. We planted them just east of the driveway soon after buying the place. They were abundant producers. These small shiny yellow plums were delicious. When ripe, extremely juicy, but still a little tarty and quite plummy. (Just the way I would hope to be described myself!)

Four or five years ago, the plum trees began to develop galls on many of the branches, sort of canker sores. My reading suggested that many tree galls are pretty harmless, but because the branches with the galls were dying off these did not seem so. We made assiduous efforts to cut off the branches with the galls and burn them, but over time more and more of the trees’ branches were affected. Two years ago a visiting arborist suggested the trees were irredeemable and should come down. I can’t now remember the source of infection she gave as causing the galls, but she said it was airborne and endemic .

After the trees came down, one of the two stumps remained alive and continued to send up shoots. I saw no reason not to let that process unfold. What happened is a now head-high bushy tangle of branches (pictured above) that this year produced fruit. It was a yellow fruit that I naturally assumed would start getting shiny as it ripened and become a shiro plum. At some point in the last few weeks I realized the fruit would never get shiny, and was way too large to be shiro plums. Instead, this week, we’ve enjoyed some large yellow peaches.

And what an appropriate week to be enjoying this fruit. Serendipitously, this morning I heard the title song of the 1974 album, Front de Libération des Arbres Fruitiers (the Fruit Tree Liberation Front), by the Belgian poet and singer Julos Beaucarne ( This gifted artist died earlier this week and the Montreal radio station Ici Musique was commemorating his life. My visiting friend Éric assured me that Beaucarne’s song was no joke, but was rather a protest song, honoring the efforts of those who resisted a government effort to have farmers cut down their fruit trees and convert to other types of agricultural production. I imagine my saving this tree stump to allow creation of a new fruit tree would earn me honorary membership in the Liberation Front.

But how did the plum tree become a peach tree? It didn’t take long learn that plum trees are often grown on root stock of other stone fruits, including peaches. This is usually accomplished through “budding”, a process akin to grafting, in which buds of plum branches are inserted in to the root stock. This is how the novelty products you see in nursery catalogues, such as trees which produce four different varieties of plum on one tree, are created.

Pretty clearly, my plum trees were grown on the root stock of a very late season peach. By chopping the tree back to the stump, I allowed it to revert to type and express its innate peachiness. (A quality I, too, try to personally cultivate). I plan to let this new growth develop, trimming it into a tree shape, and extend in future years the peach season I’ve enjoyed so much this year.

Much good apparently can come of cutting things back to their essence. Last night, capping off a lovely week-long visit, Éric treated me to dinner at a lovely small country restaurant in Pine Plains, Champêtre. The proprietors, Michel and Patricia Jean, previously ran the well known Stissing House a few doors away, and before that Provence, in lower Manhattan. They lost the lease on Stissing House this year when the owner of the property died.

Stissing House was larger and, as I recall it, had a broader menu, including items like burgers and pizza. Champêtre is in a considerably smaller space, with its menu more focused on the French specialties you’d expect of a Provencal chef. You could say it has been cut back to its essence, to its root stock. The intimacy of the room and service, and the narrower culinary focus on its specialties, has to my mind made for really superior food and a dining experience well worth the trek.

I could spin this metaphor about cutting back into a lesson applicable to life in general. Maybe as a country we’d do better to revert to our core historical strength of welcoming immigrants aspiring to a better, freer life, through which we’ve always prospered, instead of spending huge resources on imperial domination abroad and exclusionary border barriers at home.

But it’s hard to say that core strengths are the only ones that matter. I’m a better lawyer than a farmer, but cutting my endeavors back to just lawyering would ignore all the ways in which doing the labor of the farm contributes to my effectiveness as a lawyer. Perhaps it’s better to keep the point short and sweet. Cutting back can be healthy, IF it lets the healthy essence of your root stock flourish.


Asian pears, $3/quart

Long Hot Portugal peppers $.50 each

Jalapeno peppers, $.50 each

Poblano peppers $1 each

Collard greens $3/bag

Fennel $1/bulb

Swiss chard $3/ bag

Rhubarb $4 a lb.

Mint $1 a bunch

Shiso leaves, $1 for 10

Sorrel, $3 a bag

Garlic chives, $1/bunch (flat leafed)

EGGS: $5/doz

CHICKENS: They were quite uniform in size, all just around 6 lbs, a few under. These freedom rangers have been what you want them to be, deeply flavorful. $6/lb, frozen.


Email us your order at, and let us know when you’d like to pick up your order. It will be put out for you on the side screened porch of the farmhouse (110 Lasher Ave., Germantown) in a bag. You can leave cash or a check in the now famous pineapple on the porch table. Because I’m now here full time, we’re abandoning regular pick-up times. Let us know when you want your order any day between 10 and 5, and unless there are unusual circumstances we’ll be able to ready it to your convenience. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call or text at 917-544-6464 or email.


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