After a long day of giving presentations on organic certification and regulations in late March, I had the pleasure of visiting Mr. Kang in his Hesperia home. Korean Jinbo dogs greet you as you approach the gate, their white fluffy faces yearning for a good scratch. Mr. Kang stood under his patio greeting us and anchoring the dogs so they knew to not bother us guests too much. Beyond the patio is a view of 5 acres of ume and the Hi-Desert.
Mr. Kang is president of the ume farmers cooperative, and it makes sense. He’s an inspiring speaker and filled with warmth and contagious enthusiasm. He welcomed us into his home and entertained all my questions about the many ferments and bottles. He showed his onion and garlic syrups that he gives to people to reduce inflammation and aches. These preserves reminded him of his recent discovery of Vietnamese ume products. While I admired his creations, he inquired about Vietnamese ones. I promised to send my grandmother’s recipes for making ume candies under the condition that I can buy some of this year’s harvest. I’m excited to make ume syrups and sauces!!!
Going deeper into the house, photos cover the walls. The border between North Korea and China spanned the northern wall, dramatic reflections on stormy waters brimmed above the couches, and images of daily life in the mountains of Vietnam hung in frames.
Mr. Kang worked as a nurse medic for UNHCR in Vietnam from 1967-1977. He said that he loved Vietnam, despite the conditions that brought him there. His sons were born there, one died there, and he hopes to visit again someday.
Upon leaving that home of history and concoctions, the outside temperatures plummeted twenty degrees to 48 degrees F. Rain turned to ice and I found myself driving through a dense white haze of snow. You don’t know what you’ll find in the Hi-Desert.