Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Left, a Copia tomato still ripening on the vine, named after Copia the place. It's red with gold stripes. Right, an heirloom, Yoder's German Yellow Tomato. A beauty of a tomato, freshly picked by Copia's head gardener.

We spent a morning at Copia in the town of Napa, California. Copia calls itself, the American Center for Wine, Food, and the Arts. There's a building that resembles a museum that houses a restaurant Julia's Kitchen (named after Julia Child), and Galleries with exhibitions. You really could spend an entire day or maybe two at Copia. So we were only able to sample a taste of it, instead of a feast.

Outside is a garden of edibles that are used in the food prepared at Julia's Kitchen. This place was right up my alley. Many, if not most, of the plantings are clearly labeled, although not always specific. The gardens are open for visitors to explore with wide grass lined paths. We had the opportunity to see many things that we are not able to grow in our region. Each garden bed is intensively planted with a variety of plants. I felt right at home.

A good time to practice restraint. I imagine it would be fun to harvest my own pomegranates, but I will have to just imagine as they are only hardy to zone 7. A great source of antioxidants whether you eat the fruit or drink the juice. If you haven't ever eaten a pomegranate, I highly recommend you try this delicious fruit. Inside are beautiful jewel like arils, juicy flesh covered seeds. That's the part you eat. Leave the pith and skin for the compost heap.

Pomegranates still on the tree.

Another tree I've never seen in person before, Pistachio. The fruits are quite beautiful at this stage. Inside is the seed, the part we eat. Copia must be a great place to live if you're a squirrel, although I did not see any. I did see some birds.

Pistachio fruit still on the tree.

I must have been fascinated with olive trees, as I photographed them over and over again. I think they would make a lovely ornamental tree, if only they would live through the winter. Alas, they will only survive in very warm climates.

A close up view of olives still on the tree.

After the olive trees, you come to a fence. Beyond the fence is a public street. We exit the gate and cross the street to see the rest of the gardens. That's where most of the food crops for the restaurant are grown. I met the head gardener and an intern gardener who were busy harvesting, while I poked around their tomato plantings. Harvesting is done on Wednesdays and Fridays, I am told. I had been wondering about that, as I saw some ripe fruits and vegetables on the other side of the garden before we crossed the street. The gardeners are pleasant and seem happy to entertain our questions. They use shallow cardboard boxes to contain the tomatoes they harvest. Hey, I do that too! Except their boxes are loaded onto a golf cart. Oh, that's too cool.

At the back of this garden is a children's garden. It's set up to teach about different aspects of gardening. There are compost bins, a spinning chart diagramming what vegetables are grown for each season, and a few other activities. It was in this area that I found a passionflower plant. I've seen these many places we've visited over the years, but I never get tired of them. This bee feels similarly I think.

Bee passionate!

Back inside the building, we saw an exhibition, Hungry Planet: What the World Eats. The show features large photographs of 30 families, in their kitchens, from around the world with a weeks worth of food displayed before them (in the photograph). Beside each photograph is a list of what's pictured, where they are from, and how much it costs. I found it fascinating. Most of the photographs had an abundance of food in them. More than I would think a family would eat in a week. A book of the same title, was published in 2005.

In the lobby, wine stations lined a wall. (You'll have to click that link to see the photo. Blogger only allows five images per entry, although they are hosted on my website, go figure.) They're sort of wine tasting vending machines. Visitors can purchase a card with a spending amount, and then select the wine of your choosing from the vending machines by inserting the card. A taste, half or full portion is poured from a spout into your waiting glass. It was early in the day and we didn't feel like trying it. No one else was either. They thought of everything, down to a spit bucket supplied next to each machine for pouring out whatever you choose not to finish. I noticed at the tastings we had been to, most people drink most of what they are given to taste. I did not see one person actually spit wine from their mouth after tasting, although books on the subject insist this is how it's done. I imagine it would get pretty unhygienic pretty fast, so I'm glad people just swallowed their wine. Everywhere we went in Central California, we found wine tasting. I found this a bit amusing. Not surprising that wineries would have wine tasting, but I saw tastings set up even in little roadside delicatessens. I imagine it would go something like this, "Yeah, I'll take a pint of potato salad, a ham and cheese sandwich, and uh, set me up a flight of wine, will ya?"

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