Jimmy's Pies (and Backyard Raspberries) from Avonova Farms
Jimmy Pedersen started just a few years ago with four small raspberry plants. This year, his sprawling backyard in North Oakland will likely produce 200 pounds of the delicate little berries - Pedersen sells them for $3 per basket Sundays, from a table he sets up in front of his house on Avon Street, two blocks from the Temescal farmers' market. Pedersen offers homemade pies, too, frozen, unbaked, most of them made with fruit he gets from Frog Hollow Farm in Brentwood in exchange for lemons from his backyard tree. What kind of lemons? No, not Meyers. "They're some kind of North Oakland hybrid they like for their lemon tarts," says Pedersen, 65, a retired building contractor. His company built the Frog Hollow stall in the Ferry Building, which is how Pedersen got to know Frog Hollow founder farmer Al Courchesne. Courchesne has paid a couple of visits to the backyard farm Pedersen dubbed Avonova Farms. Farmer Al offered tips on pruning.
Pedersen, who looks like a pot-bellied Ned Flanders, is the quintessential urban farmer. "This is all pretty darn unplanned," he tells me, but the extra income from the sale of his pies and raspberries helps supplement his social security checks. Pedersen calls himself a "compost militant": he uses coffee grounds, leaves he sweeps up from his own street, and ones he gets from the street cleaners who work nearby Telegraph Avenue. "All I have to do is sort out the condoms and needles," he says.
There are two raspberry seasons: in spring, between March and June, and again in July until sometime in October, though this year's cool summer should extend the fall harvest. Pedersen sells berries to Yasai Produce Market on College Avenue in Rockridge, and to a baker who calls herself the Cake Lady, who incorporates them into scones. The raspberry ones are available Fridays at Remedy Coffee (4316 Telegraph, at 43rd St.) in Temescal.
Pedersen's raspberries are small and delicate, in the way even farmers' market berries usually aren't. The taste: musky rose perfume hovering above a bright lemon acidity. And the pies? The Frog Hollow peach specimen we tried was delicious, with fruit that'd rendered into a sweet, golden pomade, in a sturdy lattice crust on the edge of yielding.
Avonova Farms: Sunday mornings in front of 417 Avon (at Shafter), Oakland.