Jammin' With the Man
CHRISTOPHER WILSON IS A ONE-MAN JAM GUY. He started his company, LunaGrown Jam, three years ago when a friend's dog went missing, only to be found in a vast field of wild blueberries. The dog's name was Luna.
"The only thing to do with all those blueberries was to make jam," Wilson recalls. "Blueberry jam was the beginning." Flash forward to today: Wilson is standing solo behind his one Kilner jam pot, cooking down fruit. When the process is done, he ladles the jam into jars and pastes on the LunaGrown label he designed. He’s produced, of course, wild blueberry jam, but also apricot, cherry, raspberry and, more exotically, blood orange marmalade and lemon marmalade with lavender.
Wilson’s annual production yields about 15,000 jars of up to 20 different seasonal jams. "I try to produce about six different types of jam per season, depending on the weather we've had during that growing season," he says. Last year, for example, golden plums grew in abundance and Wilson produced a run of golden plum jam; this year, golden plums didn't fare as well. "I also did a green tomato-with-lemon last year,” he says. “I'm hoping for it again this fall."
Wilson says it's the seasonality of making jam, marmalade and jelly that he loves. "You're not married to one type of product, not committed to one flavor forever. That would get monotonous for me and for the customers,” he notes. “My idea of jam is to be able to look forward to certain things in life—like ice cream in summer."
Wilson harvests his own blueberries, gooseberries, elderberries, red and black currants, and he has planted young trees that he hopes will yield cherries, figs, apricots and pomegranates. He sources strawberries, peaches and apples from local farms and orchards. "If I can get organic, that comes first,” he stresses, adding that he only uses farms that are non-GMO and use sustainable practices. The all-natural jams and jellies are made with pure cane sugar, pure citrus pectin and have no preservatives, additives or corn syrup—he even makes his own brown sugar using natural black-strap molasses.
Wilson plans to continue LunaGrown as a simple, niche business. "Luna will never grow into anything automated using large, three-foot jam pots. This is a hands-on business. It keeps it special."
LunaGrown jams can be found at Hudson Street Café (Cornwall), Nature’s Pantry (Newburgh), Hudson Valley Wine Farmer’s Market (Gardiner), Bialas Farm (New Hampton) and other area farmers’ markets, or they can be ordered from LunaGrown's website.