U-pick orchards this week
re: Melanie Wong
This post gets the gold star of the day.
If you're looking for...
Faye Elberta -- Moffatt Ranch, Peter Wolfe (same as Wolfe Ranch?)
Blenheim Apricots -- Wolfe Ranch Cherries
Montmorency (sour) Cherries -- Bacchini's Fruit Tree
Burlat and Mono Cherries - Seko Ranch Cherries
...you can find all that info on the website Melanie gave. It's not the handiest website, and many of the producers don't list specific varieties, but it seems like there are definitely some farmers there who really care about what they're growing.
Especially if you're in the east bay craving Faye Elbertas (hint hint Robert L...), this seems like a fantastic web site to dig into and use to start calling farmers.
A quick note about our visit yesterday (Saturday) afternoon, in case anyone’s thinking about driving around Brentwood’s farm stands. We didn’t do u-pick. It was my first time in this area.
We got a later start than planned, arriving in Brentwood a little after 3pm, but we covered a lot of ground before hitting the last one at 5pm. Though I had wanted to study up and plan an itinerary ahead of time, I wasn’t that prepared. Of the two places I particularly wanted to see, when I called Knoll Farms to check on hours, I got a recording explaining that it’s wholesale only with no u-pick or farmstand. The other, Peter Wolfe, closed at 4pm, before we found it. And, Wolfe is a little tricky to find with the road work going on out there. So, do check about hours and openings ahead of time, as many stands have already shut down for the season or are closing earlier now. Also, if you don’t have GPS, bring a more detailed map as the farm stand map online (or the printed version handed out at the farms) is not to scale and is of little help navigating through town or around the many new housing blocks in between farms.
Quality is all over the board and some sell products not grown locally. At Arata’s stand (not on the Harvest Time map), the guy there pushed some Salinas Valley iceberg lettuce, saying it was a deal at a dollar a head! I was quite disappointed to see several stands restocking withered and less than ripe produce out of the refrigerator, and not bringing in freshly picked fruits and vegetables from the fields. Plenty of greenish stone fruit and tomatoes offered for sale as well as scratched up, shopworn summer squash. I didn’t find a single melon that I wanted to buy. One stand was loading a Safeway trailer parked in its lot. That said, while it sells unexciting Safeway-grade vegetables, at least the price is lower at the stand and presumably somewhat fresher when you buy it.
I haven’t had a chance to taste everything we purchased yet, but here are some brief notes on the places where we found something we thought was worth buying.
Dwelley Farms – We started here on the north end and worked our way south. Blue Lake, Romano, and yellow wax beans were very fresh and taut, $1.29/lb. This place is also known for its corn.
Smith Family Farms – Heirloom tomatoes for $1.50/lb. but not much that was ripe in the bins. Interesting selection of sweet peppers including pimentos, cubanelles, Italian frying peppers, and the hot varieties for $1 to $1.50/lb.
Tachella Family Farms – The Emerald Beauty plums were smallish and after tasting them, just okay. Even the most yellow and ripe of the Kadota figs I bought here had thick, rubbery skins.
The Farmers Daughter (not on the map, on Walnut north of Marsh Creek on the west side of the road) – Promotes itself as pesticide free, and the owner explained that its organic certification has been delayed because the County sprayed it for sharpshooters by mistake. This was the only place that had peaches that looked or felt ripe and the scent of peaches was in the air. These are O’Henrys, and the sample offered was good. I bought a couple, and while they can’t compare to the O’Henrys I had last week from Dry Creek Peach in Healdsburg, they’re decent at $2/lb. Today (Sunday, 8/19) will be the last day of the season.
Lon’s Farm Stand at Kelsey Farms, http://www.eatfarmfresh.com - If we hadn’t found this place, I would have no reason to return to Brentwood at this time of year. It’s organic and prices are a little higher here but by scent, appearance and touch, the produce is much better here than the other farms. This stand had fewer tomatoes on the table than Smith’s more enclosed space, but the air was heady with their ripe scent. More varieties of heirloom tomatoes ($2/lb.) and they have that look of bursting with ripeness. I did snitch tastes of the Sun Golds and Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes and they’re sweet as candy with good acid balance. The basil was beautiful, and again, very aromatic with just picked fragrance. Melons and peaches were already sold out for the day, and the return customers who stopped by were devastated. Several kinds of onions (75¢/lb.) and we stocked up on the beautiful red torpedoes. The stand also has local honey and olive oil made by other growers.
Brentwood has a farmers market on Saturday morning, where some of the places that aren’t open to the public participate. I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who has been to this market.
Brentwood farm stand photos -