This harvest season, the trees were loaded with fruit, even more so than years past. We have the extra hot and dry weather to thank for that—a mixed blessing considering that it also comes with a drought. We know it’s as important as ever to save as much of that fruit as possible, even if we can’t sell it all for out of hand eating.
Compost is one of a few options we have for extra, overripe or damaged fruit. When you visit the farm, Farmer Al will likely show you Frog Hollow’s compost piles, an impressive array of hundreds of tons of overripe fruit, coffee grounds, horse manure, tree trimmings, and more—all heating up and doing its microbiology thing. More than 300 tons of that compost will eventually be scattered around the orchards throughout the year (10 tons per acre in a year!) and will contribute to the overall health of the soil.
But some fruit is just too good to compost! Maybe a peach is only cosmetically damaged or it’s a bit too juicy to make it to the farmers market or CSA boxes. It would still taste delicious, so composting it would be kind of a waste. To capture that deliciousness, this fruit either goes to our Farm Kitchen to be made into conserves and treats, or we dry it!
The ripest fruit makes the sweetest dried fruit. As water evaporates, the well-developed sugar content takes center stage. And not only is drying fruit a way to preserve summer sunshine to enjoy year-round, it’s part of our greater ecosystem of averting food waste.
As a culture, when we talk about sustainability, we’re often looking far into the future. It’s a term that can mean so many things, but mostly we take it to mean: Can what we’re doing right now last? In order to realize the vision of the farm in the future, sustainability must be a lens through which we make daily decisions about what we do on the farm today.
How do we care for the land and for trees in a way that will keep them producing for generations to come? How do we keep as much of our fruit in the food stream as we can? And how do we convert what we supposedly can’t use into something we can?Our dried fruit is beloved by the Frog Hollow community in the winter and spring months, and it’s a great way to keep extra, imperfect fruit. It’s so beloved, in fact, that we sold out last year! That’s why our team has worked hard to find a partner to help us expand our dried fruit operation, especially as we’ve seen so much more fruit come off the trees this year.
Part of what makes our dried fruit so tasty and special is how hands-on we are at each step of the process. We are pleased we’ve been able to preserve that handmade element as we are capturing all of this summer’s sweetness. First, each tree is cared for by hand throughout its entire life to produce the plumpest, healthiest fruit. Then it’s harvested by hand. When the fruit is ready to be dried, we hand-slice it (and in the case of peaches, also hand-peel), and then we hand-pack it on the farm without sulfur or other additives.
When Frog Hollow started drying peaches almost 25 years ago, the team discovered pretty quickly that even though it was much more labor intensive, peeling them made for a softer, more delicious, and more attractive dried peach. It’s rare that other dried fruit operations bother peeling, especially when they can use sulfur to prevent the peach skin from molding. Peeling our peaches before drying not only tastes and looks great, but also better preserves the product without using any sulfur at all.
A dried piece of fruit is only going to be as good as the fruit you start with. And after 25 years of drying fruit, the Frog Hollow team has learned which varieties work and which ones don’t. Peaches that are stringier in texture or overly juicy won’t work, so we tend not to dry the earliest varieties. The Cal Reds however, are meaty and flavorful and as with everything, make amazing dried fruit. Farmer Al long ago adopted the Cal Red as the farm’s signature peach, a unique variety that has become the favorite of discerning peach lovers across the country. Frog Hollow is one of the few farms to grow this California native, as its especially delicate flesh makes it a challenge to harvest. But the extra care is worth it. Like its fresh counterpart, the Cal Red packs a punch when dried. Each piece has a beautiful golden hue and a full-bodied peach flavor with an almost syrupy caramel sweetness.
Let our dried fruit transport you. Enjoy each sweet, textured bite. And no matter what time of year, savor the taste of summer sunshine.
Try our dried fruit today! Dried peaches, apricots, nectarines, pluots, and plums delivered to your home in 48 hours.