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Anthony Jones, the founder and Executive Chef for 8FIFTEEN and his wife Gabby moved to the Bay Area from Brooklyn a couple years ago to get a fresh start. 8FIFTEEN” is a reference to the day that Anthony and Gabby met. Gabby and Anthony met on August 15, 2003, during the two-day blackout that struck New York and much of the Eastern seaboard. It was a magical day when everyone took a break and hung out with friends. Without electricity, many restaurants were forced to grill up food on barbecues and give it away to the public.  It was a day of camaraderie and love built around food, friends and beer.

 

Anthony had been working as an Attorney in New York but with the move to the west coast he decided to take a leap and follow his passion in food. While he and Gabby were making the journey to the West Coast they came up with Sandwich manifesto, which details the making of the perfect sandwich. From this manifesto, the beginning of a career and a dream was born - 8FIFTEEN.

 

8FIFTEEN started as strictly sandwiches. The business gained recognition by selling at various farmers markets and fairs within the Bay Area. The first market that 8FIFTEEN took part in was the Kensington Farmer’s Market where they learned how to prep ingredients ahead of time and were able to test their products. Since Kensington, 8FIFTEEN has been a part of multiple Farmers Markets and fairs including: Alameda Point Antiques Fair, Treasure Island Flea Market, and the Patchwork Show in Oakland. With great demand for their product to be available on a more regular basis, 8FIFTEEN has partnered with Rapha Cafe where they sell their sandwiches pre-packaged.

 

Knowing that 8FIFTEEN has experience packaging their products and has the ability to make amazing things happen with seasonal ingredients, we asked them if they could try their hand in preparing salads for Frog Hollow Farm Café. They eagerly accepted the challenge and came up with some amazing products. For the past several months Anthony and his team have been working hard to develop salads to be served exclusively at Frog Hollow Farm’s retail location in the San Francisco Ferry Building. The salads are inspired by classic recipes but have a modern twist. They are artfully composed highlighting Frog Hollow Farm ingredients with bright and robust flavors. We can’t wait for you to try them!

 

There will be three salads to hit the shelves next Wednesday (7/23). First we have the Spiced Egg salad that will be served as an entrée. The 8FIFTEEN version is not your average egg salad. It is made with Frog Hollow Farm extra virgin olive oil, little gem lettuce, parmesan croutons, cilantro, lime, and topped with Frog Hollow Farm tomatoes. This is a nourishing vegetarian option filled with protein and plenty of vitamins and minerals. Next we have two side salads that can either be eaten as a snack or enjoyed alongside Frog Hollow Farm’s delicious empanadas for a satisfying lunch. The lentil beet salad has pickled onions, parsley and Frog Hollow Farm dried apricots and is drizzled orange vinaigrette. Another side salad option is the grilled corn salad with legendary Frog Hollow Farm peaches, poblano peppers from our up and coming vegetable garden at the farm and some feta cheese. Anthony will be offering tastings of the new salads at the Café on Friday, July 25th from 11am-1pm. So do come by and meet the chef!

Farmer Al's favorite Flavor King pluot is ripe and ready to ship. This year (2014), like most other fruits, we have an early harvest of this 'fruit royalty' too.

Yes, that's what he like to call the Flavor King pluot because, just as its name suggests, it is indeed the king of flavor

If you have tasted a Flavor King pluot before, then you're probably a fan! But if you're new to this gorgeous fruit, then we strongly recommend that you dig through the archives of 
The New York Times and read an article dating back to 2007, titled, "A New Lease on Lunch."

Therein, writer Patricia Brown tastefully describes how chef, author and Chez Panisse proprietor Alice Waters introduced Brown's sons (then, ages 16 and 13) to a ripe, juicy and flavorful Flavor King pluot from Frog Hollow Farm. That article is testament to the fact that all you need to appreciate organically grown, tree-ripened fruits is to try one. In the article, Brown describes how her sons were served a "single Frog Hollow Farm Flavor King pluot (a plum-apricot hybrid)" on a plate for dessert and how both boys talked about the pluot for days afterward, practically begging for more. 

- Farmer Al

 

 

This week at the farm, we've started picking our Suncrest peaches.

 

The Suncrest is an heirloom varietal and it's packed with traditional peach flavor. It's one of the best peaches we grow at Frog Hollow. Biting into a Suncrest peach is like biting into the refreshing goodness of summer itself. A Farmer's Market customer once described the Suncrest peach to me as the 'Golden Globe' of peaches and that description has stuck with me for life! It does indeed have a beautiful gold skin that's lightly blushed red. It's one of my favorite peaches because every bite lends for a juicy, eat-over-the-sink experience.

For more tips on how to identify a peach that's ready to eat, watch the video below: 

 

 To order organic, peaches, visit: http://www.froghollow.com/collections/fresh-fruit/products/organic-peaches

“A nectarine… is half plum, half peach… a fine fruit… even rotten; I’d eat a rotten nectarine over a fine plum any day”
Mel Brooks as the 2000 year old man

Contrary to popular belief, the nectarine is not a hybrid of a peach and a plum but it is indeed a fine fruit. Genetically derived from the same species as the peach, prunus persica, the only difference in a nectarine is a mutation that does not produce fuzz. Technically, you could have a peach and nectarine on the same tree. Every once in a while we’ll find a smooth peach on a peach tree, although I’ve never seen a fuzzy nectarine on a nectarine tree. The nectarine’s smooth skin while more palatable, unfortunately makes it more susceptible to brown rot and mildew.

Other than the genetic difference there are differences in flavor and texture as well. Nectarines are generally meatier in texture and tarter in flavor. They have a denser, creamy orange flesh, less yellow than that of a peach. Nutritionally, you get more bang for your buck as they have more Vitamin C, twice the Vitamin A and more potassium than their fuzzy cousin. Both have significant fiber content.

While the peach is soft, mild, plump and juicy, the nectarine is intense, buff and at times, downright fierce. Even with these differences in temperament they can still be used interchangeably in recipes and would only need a light modification in the amount if sugar or acid used. Nectarines don’t need to be peeled; peaches don’t either really!  The level of fuzziness varies from variety to variety but some don’t like it. (I don’t generally peel peaches but the Suncrest for instance; I almost always do, or at least give them a healthy wipe down with a damp cloth.) 

I have always maintained and a lot of people don’t like to hear this, that the best piece of fruit we grow is the Ruby Grand Nectarine. As much as I love the Cal Red, the Suncrest and the Gold Dust peaches, nothing beats a deep gold, thick skinned, and meaty, Ruby Grand.  And the Fantasia is no slouch either! After all, the Fantasia Nectarine is what brought me to my husband Farmer Al (via Bill Fujimoto of Monterey Market). And the white nectarines? Forget about it! A cold Emeraude or White Rose nectarine on a hot summer day is pure heaven and beats a white peach anytime, even in a Bellini.

Still the peach is the “peach” of stone fruits, out-selling nectarines by 100% and they have all the glory. Did anyone ever call you a “nectarine” when you’ve done something nice for them? Think about it! 

-Becky Courchesne
Becky Courchesne is native northern Californian just like Farmer Al. Although she graduated from Linfield College with degrees in English and anthropology, cooking was always her first love. After moving back to the Bay Area, she began working in the kitchen at Alice Waters’ Cafe Fanny and later became head pastry chef at Oliveto in Oakland. It was there, while Farmer Al was making his delivery rounds, that the pastry chef met the peach farmer. Becky moved to the farm in 1995 and in 2000, inspired by the abundance of delicious fruit all around her, launched a line of now-famous organic conserves, marmalades, jelly and chutney all made with Frog Hollow Fruit grown right in her backyard.

organic peaches, organic fruit delivery

If you shop for fresh peaches at a farmer’s market or even in the produce section of a grocery store, then my guess is that you are probably like me, before I started working with Frog Hollow Farm, (of course!).  I would carefully inspect each individual piece of fruit and select, what I believed was, the sweetest and most ready-to-eat from the rest, only to go home and find out how off the mark I was!

If you get organic fruits delivered from Frog Hollow Farm, then you’ve already solved 80% of the problem because at Frog Hollow Farm we only ship the best of tree-ripened fruits, anyway.

Here’s one tip I learned early on — always store fruit on your kitchen counter in such a way that no two pieces of fruit are in contact with each other.

Now let’s get to identifying a peach that’s ready to eat. From what I have learnt after talking to Farmer Al, there are three main characteristics that would help you identify a sweet, juicy, ready-to-eat peach:

  1. Color: This is important because you ought to know what you’re looking for! According to Farmer Al, “the real color you want to look for is the background color of the fruit and not the red, highlight.” According to him, the red color is deceptive because our brain is genetically evolved to think that the color red is delicious and sweet. He says, “Plant breeders have bred the color red into a lot of peaches grown around the world now-a-days because it helps sell the fruit.” The real color you want to look for is the yellow and it should be deep golden, not pale.
  2. Touch: You can tell if a peach is ripe or not by a gentle, yet firm squeeze (not hard enough to bruise it) with your fingers. If there’s a little bit of a give there, then it means that the fruit is almost ripe but not quite. I would still leave such a peach on the kitchen counter for another 2-3 days till it is actually soft to very soft.
  3. Skin Texture: This is the most telling of all three characteristics. You can tell that a peach is ready to eat by looking for signs of shriveled skin around the stem. When you see wrinkles, that's the sign of a really excellent peach. I had asked Farmer Al what the shriveling means and he explained that wrinkles develop on the skin when water starts to leave the fruit. “Water evaporates from fruit once it has been picked because the skin is very porous. It will shrivel and dry up and that will intensify the flavors and give you the best peach flavor," he explained.

So go on and try these steps the next time you buy peaches and drop in a line to let me know if they worked for you. If you have other suggestions, feel free to leave us a comment.

Author: Pearl Driver

Pearl is the Marketing Director at Frog Hollow Farm. She is an e-commerce sales and marketing expert. Before joining Frog Hollow Farm, Pearl worked as a journalist and as Website producer. She brings a combination of creative thinking and knowledge of the Web to Frog Hollow. Her favorite fruits from the farm are the O’Henry peach and the Flavor King pluot. 

 

 

 

 

 

As part of my commitment to the environment and sustainable organic farming, Frog Hollow Farm embraces composting. 

Here's why:

1.Proper composting creates organic material rich in beneficial microbes that eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers (one of the basic tenets of organic farming.)

2.Application of compost reduces the need for chemical pesticides, which we don't use.

3.Other benefits include the return of carbon to the soil (something that does not happen with chemical fertilizers).

4.The return of other important minerals to the soil

5.Nitrogen enrichment of the soil.

6.There is also no build up of “garbage” vegetation from weeding and pruning,

7.And less trash goes out from the kitchen to a landfill.

It Takes Careful Watching

To create the ideal product for me to apply to my trees, the composting process gets a lot of close attention.  We carefully manage the organic contents, the temperature, the moisture levels, and the balance of fungi in our compost.  I want to be sure all the elements come together.

First, the materials we put into our compost are carefully chosen to make sure they break down just right for what the orchard needs.   Here are the 'secret' ingredients: coffee grounds and kitchen residues from our cafe and bakery; tree clippings and cover crops from the farm; and any fruit that doesn't get used or sold, as well as other organic materials available to us.

Next, we carefully monitor the temperature. If the compost gets too hot, some of the little critters will die resulting in compost that is less rich in nutrients. If it’s not hot enough, weed seeds and harmful  pathogens  are  not  entirely  eliminated  from  the  compost.  Finding the right balance is crucial.

In addition, the moisture levels in the compost rows are also closely watched. The microbes and fungi responsible for healthy compost quickly die without enough water.

Also, I keep an eye on the overall mix of bacteria, fungi,  protozoa and beneficial nematodes in our compost.  Fruit trees prefer soil that’s rich in fungi, so it’s important that we encourage the right balance.

The Payoff

Just this year, that balance of microbes helped us avoid brown rot blossom blight.  Brown rot is an infection of the flowers caused by a combination of warm temperatures and rain, which results in crop failure.  After two years of applying compost generated on­site at the farm to the apricot trees, the biology of the soil is much healthier, creating a better balance of microbes, which strengthened the "immune system" of the trees and allows them to fight off potential infections.  This year the apricot trees were able to fight off the blossom blight, giving us a bumper crop, and insuring you get a full season of delicious apricots.

The Organic Way

Composting is a critical part of our organic and sustainable farming practices. It builds up the soil instead of letting it become depleted. It creates a healthy balance of beneficial microbes, preventing many of the problems that conventional farmers use chemicals to treat.  It recycles some of the garbage that would otherwise go to the landfill, turning that “trash” into nutritional soil additives.

All together, the composting that goes on here at Frog Hollow Farm enriches the land, benefits the trees, and helps the farm turn out the highest quality fruit ... sweet and juicy, organic and healthy. 

It’s an all-around win.

This week we had the pleasure of having Mario Hernandez, the Cookin' the Market Chef at the Pacific Coast Farmer's Market Association, and Elena, a member of their marketing team, visit us at the farm. They wanted to learn more about where their food came from and also have the opportunity to teach Becky and I a couple early summer recipes that we could recreate at the farm.

I (Chef Anna, Culinary Coordinator, Frog Hollow Farm) wanted Chef Mario and Elena to have the unique experience of working with the fruit from tree to plate, and willingly Farmer Al agreed to bring us into the orchard to harvest some of the first Honey Rich apriums of the season. The three of us hopped on his all terrain golf cart and zipped down rows of peaches, plums and cherries. We passed through a row where the workers were thinning fruit and the young pluots popped under us like the sound of popcorn. Farmer Al excitedly remarked that that is the sound of a healthy crop. A lot of fruit on the ground means there is even more on the tree.

Eventually we arrived at the Honey Rich aprium trees. This is where the cooking process began. Chefs know that ingredients are the foundation for any dish and that it is essential to select ones of the best quality. With the expert at hand, we asked Farmer Al to show us how to choose the tatiest Honey Rich apriums. He explained that the fruit that is ready to harvest is semi-firm with a reddish hue (the hue being secondary to the texture). We chose wisely and gathered enough to make a couple early summer dishes. 

After the harvest we made our way to the kitchen. Mario artfully constructed a salad as we conversed about the importance of balancing texture and flavor.

He quartered the heads of lettuce to give the salad some body and a crunch that would hold up to the creamy dressing. The creaminess and sweetness of the dressing balanced the tartness of the apriums, while the smoky paprika pepitas and the capers brought forth salty, spicy and savory flavors that excited the salivary glands. Mario delicately laid the salad on a beautiful white plate and drizzled the creamy dressing over top. We took a few moments to appreciate its beauty, and then tossed the salad to ensure the lettuce was well coated with the crème fraîche dressing. We ate with happiness. [For Chef Mario's Little Gem Lettuce Salad with Organic Apricot recipe, click here.] Mario also made a delicious recipe

 


Here's what the team from Cookin' The Market had to say about their experience:

 

 

Last week, we had the pleasure of visiting Frog Hollow Farm on a beautiful, hot day in Brentwood.  Arriving on the farm, we were treated to an impromptu tour with Farmer Al, checking out all the different varieties of apricot and plum trees in various stages of growth. We loved seeing the organic farming process, the glorious compost pile and seeing firsthand all the precision, care, labor and knowledge that go into the production of a box of fruit.  As farmers’ market employees, we know that the cosmetic appearance of a fruit or vegetable has little to do with its quality or flavor, but it’s always fun for us to hear why the food has a unique appearance. Farmer Al told us many of his cherries split this year because they grew too fast due to a heavy rain this past season, but when we tried them they were still the best cherries we’ve ever tasted. 

We were lucky enough to be invited into Chef Becky’s home kitchen to cook a meal with fresh picked apricots. As a chef, Mario puts quality above all else. Higher quality produce tastes better enabling him to create a better and more flavorful dish, and Frog Hollow produces that quality. The apricot flavors jumped off the dish for the perfect summer lunch.  PCFMA  and Cookin the Market look forward to continuing to collaborate with Frog Hollow Farm and cook with their delicious produce.

- Elena

 

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