When Roy was first courting me, he took me blueberry picking. One day he came bouncing down the rocky road to my Waldron’s Bottom rental in a beaten-up boat of a green Volvo that he’d bought off an Islander who’d bought it off another who’d bought it off another. I think that car basically lived in the Alley’s parking lot with a For Sale sign on it. It was the perfect cruiser. With the windows rolled all the way down and the hot sun dancing around the Hula girl attached to the dashboard, Roy ferried me off to his secret stand of blueberry bushes. I’m not sure whether he was prouder of his sleuthing ability or of the fact that he’d found the perfect activity to enchant a food-obsessed girl, but I loved it.

For me, the whole experience was just one more reason I was falling irreversibly in love with the Vineyard, a year or so into my foray out here. That fall Roy and I went on a wild foods walk on Chappy, and I took a gander at my first wild cranberries – and the famous but not too tasty wild Vineyard fox grapes. Another time, we were invited to pick apples from a friend’s huge old apple tree, and we brought Roy’s daughter Libby along. Later I made rustic apple tarts for my sweetie and the new little girl in my life. By then you could say I was hooked – on this place where fruit grows wild and cultivated from Aquinnah to Edgartown, and yes, on the boy, his little girl, and a new life on an Island where gathering food and home cooking are still honored pastimes.

I’d bet every Islander has a favorite fruit-picking memory, whether it’s the squish of warm sand between flip-flopped toes and the plink-plink of beach plums falling into a bucket on an azure-sky September day, or the quiet rhythm of a hike along a Land Bank trail in shadowy oak-dappled sunlight, stooping to pick a smattering of tiny prickly wild blackberries or blueberries along the path.

For us, the fruit-picking enchantment foreshadowed our future, though we didn’t know it then. Flash-forward five years, and Roy and I are now farmers, living on a delicious little slice of land in West Tisbury, garnished with wild blackberries and wild black raspberries, and yes, even blueberries. We’ve planted some of our own blueberries, and every year our fabulous next-door neighbors let us glean their pear trees to sell the fruit at our farm stand. They have a peach tree, a plum tree, and grape vines, too. I am envious, but grateful to be living next door.

And at last, this fall we planted our first apple trees. It was Roy’s idea to honor his two sisters, JoAnn and Nancy, who have both passed away in the last two years. He’s carved a wooden sign that says “Two Sisters Orchard.” We water the trees every day, hoping they’ll flourish, like we have in our adopted home. I can’t wait until we have our own apples. Libby and I will make rustic tarts, my favorite destination for fruit, in honor of JoAnn and Nancy. I think they’d like that.

Making the tarts

Truthfully, though, you don’t have to gather local fruit to make a rustic tart. If you follow my step-by-step instructions, you will have a killer dessert or even a savory starter or main event with a buttery, flaky crust (really flaky) and a delicious filling – even if the fruit comes from Cronig’s mid-winter. I promise you, your family and guests will love these, and you can make the dough days or weeks ahead, and even bake the tarts a day ahead. I’ve even given you the option to make a regular-size tart or two smaller ones.

I learned to make the easy tart dough in my first restaurant job at Al Forno restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island, where rustic tarts are called crostatas (the French call them galettes), and I’ve gone on to feature the tarts in my cookbooks. For Martha’s Vineyard Magazine, I’ve created a versatile fruit filling for dessert that allows you to make an apple, pear, or plum tart. Then, because I love apples and pears in savory fillings, too, I’ve given you a Savory Cabbage, Apple and Cheddar filling and a Savory Roasted Butternut, Pear, and Cranberry filling (using the same dough).

A slice of one of the savory tarts makes a great supper with hot soup or a lovely starter with a salad for fall or winter entertaining. One would even be a great vegetarian addition to the Thanksgiving table. And the sweet fruit tarts, I’d have to say from vast refrigerator-robbing experience, are as great for breakfast or a snack as they are for dessert.

Whatever filling you choose, I hope you’ll find that a rustic tart – basically a pie with a much loosy-goosier crust approach – is as easy and fun to make as it is satisfying to serve and eat.

Follow the link below for all of the recipes.