Saturday, July 20, 2013
the land of legendary fruit
san francisco was wreathed in fog this morning but the sun broke through in walnut creek and it was in the high 80s with clear skies by the time we got to brentwood. thanks to friends in high places, we had the deluxe edition tour of frog hollow farm, a 140-acre tree fruit paradise containing, among other things, mind-altering apricots and a dazzling array of peach, plum, and pluot varieties that i have not yet tasted. i love fruit, and i especially love tree fruit: orchards are about the only form of agriculture that comes close to being genuinely sustainable.
alfred and sarah, co-owners, showed us around the farm. we saw: the new and fancy 10,000 case/day packing line which bruises their fruit because frog hollow picks riper than most growers do. the fragrant cold room, stacked high with cases of ripe fruit. the farm dog, which is an attention-seeking black labrador-esque animal with a cold nose. rows of alluring but unripe peaches, pears, plums, pluots, apples. a team of pickers on their third pass through a row of zee lady peaches (red-skinned but yellow-fleshed, with a rich flavour and good acid). moth pheromone emitters that interfere with moth sex and thus prevent moth larvae (good for the fruit, not so good for the moths). their full-time and seasonal staff, many of which have been with them for decades ("they're the best around: PhDs in picking and packing, every one of them"). many rows of superior-grade house-made organic compost, heavy on horse manure, chipped up old trees, and overripe peaches (managed by a consulting compost expert, turned over by a special compost-turning machine, and moistened by an 1100-gallon water tank on wheels). many fruit culled for not complying with arcane and pointless-seeming appearance guidelines—such as the peach in the picture third from the top, which suffers from "excessive cleavage." gopher holes (they like to chew on the roots of apricot and cherry, but not those of peach; a staff hunter prowls the property picking the varmints off with a shotgun). the aromatic bee gardens designed to attract the native terrestrial bees which nest underground. the neighbour's automated canning tomato harvesting machine in the adjacent field (it sucks up whole tomato plants and pours out the side a cascade of thick-skinned tomatoes at the rate of 150 tons/hour, many still green and underripe). a pickup truck destined for the farmer's market, bed completely filled with cases of ripe peaches and pluots gradually warming in the midday sun.
like a fool, i forgot—until it was far too late—to buy a case of peaches at the farm.