Earlier this summer, I joined my friend Victoria for her annual pilgrimage to Wolfe Ranch in Brentwood, where she goes for Blenheim apricots. Located 40 minutes from Berkeley down a winding country road and across a small bridge, this family-owned orchard sells apricots, cherries, peaches, plums, and other fruits. The sunny morning we visited the quiet, bucolic orchard, we found perfectly ripe Blenheim apricots set out on a table in an open-air barn. We probably ate a dozen between us on our way home, their velvet-soft rosy-orange skin yielding to our touch.
Victoria has been visiting the farm for 20 years, buying stone fruit by the box-load, eating some right away, and preserving the rest to enjoy during the cold, rainy winter months. She recalls seeing many more family farms operating in the area when she first began visiting. As in other agricultural regions in Northern California, demand for commercial and residential real estate, together with the physical demands of farm work (apricots, for example, are picked by hand), has resulted in many family farms being sold off or scaled back.
Apricot season has wound down, but other fruits, like Fay Elberta peaches, are available at Wolfe Ranch and other orchards and farms in the Brentwood area. If you’re looking for a pleasant summer outing, visit any of the area’s more than 40 orchards and farm stands selling seasonal fruits and vegetables. U-pick orchards can be a fun adventure for children. The website harvest4you.com provides details about each farm. A good lunch stop is La Costa Taqueria (335 Oak Street, Brentwood), where the $1.50 street tacos can be enjoyed in a large outdoor seating area or inside the restaurant.
For the Love of Apricots:
Recipes & Memories of the Santa Clara Valley
By Lisa Prince Newman
(Prince of the Orchard Publications, 2018)
Lisa Prince Newman grew up on two acres in the South Bay town of Saratoga. The property included a productive fruit orchard, a remnant from a historic ranch. Not so long ago, fruit orchards covered much of the Santa Clara Valley landscape. Newman’s book includes reflections on what the famed Valley of Heart’s Delight was like when it was covered with orchards and how it’s changed. Along with dozens of recipes using apricots, the book is filled with charming pictures of vintage labels and postcard images of the Valley, together with historical detail and Newman’s memories of growing up there. Her book is both a cookbook and an informative guide to the history and evolution of the orchards of Santa Clara Valley before the technology industry moved in.
Jam Session: A Fruit-Preserving Handbook
By Joyce Goldstein
(Lorena Jones Books, 2018)
Former Chez Panisse chef, retired chef/owner of Square One, and author of 28 books, Joyce Goldstein is also known for her preserves sold at specialty stores around the country. Her latest cookbook helps fans make their own all-natural fruit preserves at home. Organized by type of fruit and seasonal availability, with descriptions of the best varieties for preserving, the book includes no-fail instructions for canning fruit preserves, together with serving ideas for using them. Try Mango-Lime Jam to elevate pork tenderloin, Pickled Peaches for fried chicken, and Apricot Jam to glaze cake. With 75 reliable recipes and lovely photographs of produce, process, and finished fruit preserves, Goldstein’s handbook will inspire and inform experienced jam-makers and newcomers alike.
Edible East Bay’s book editor Kristina Sepetys is eager to share her ideas and book recommendations with
Meet Joyce Goldstein, author of Jam Session: A Fruit-Preserving Handbook
Sunday August 12, 3–4pm
Omnivore Books on Food
3885a Cesar Chavez St, San Francisco
No charge to attend.