I’ve been enjoying the glory of these last few weeks—the tart skin and sweet center of a Santa Rosa plum, the soft juiciness of a Fantasia nectarine, the full fragrance of a yellow peach. I’m continually reminded that my absolute favorite time of year is here. In all the fresh, juicy goodness, my mind hasn’t yet turned to the dried fruit we also produce on the farm. It’s delicious—especially in the fall months when I must unhappily wean myself off of stone fruit season. A taste of summer sunshine, preserved.
I was reminded of this Frog Hollow delicacy the other day when I passed by the racks where we dry our fruit. For those of you who have ever been out to the farm, you may have seen them out in the orchard a little beyond our onsite kitchen. We’ve been drying apricots there since May and just started with our peaches now too. The fruit that makes its way to the racks is either not cosmetically beautiful enough to sell or a little too ripe (but not so ripe that it would go to our compost). Especially ripe fruit makes especially great dried fruit. As the water evaporates, the well-developed sugar content takes center stage. We pride ourselves in finding a place for every piece of fruit we can, regardless of whether or not a grocery store would deem it “perfect.” As you’ll often hear Farmer Al say, waste not!
Watching the fruit drying process from start to finish is fascinating—the chemistry involved, the hard work, and the craft. A lot goes into producing each piece before it makes its way into happy hands. Most dried fruit in the industry is made with a dehydrator, but we also like to harness the power of the California sun. High sugar and acid content makes it safe to sun dry apricots and peaches in the right conditions. And the hot, dry, breezy days out here in Brentwood are perfect.
First we cut the fruit by hand and lay it out on the racks. That allows for air movement around each piece, which is great for drying them quickly. In the peak of summertime, it takes about 4-5 days. And then once dried, we bag the fruit on the farm without sulfur or other additives for you to enjoy at home!
Many people’s first question is how we protect our sun dried fruit from critters. They’re surprised to learn that it’s actually not a problem we experience. The racks are over gravel so it’s extremely hot out there for ground-dwelling creatures. And birds are uninterested. All in all, it’s not worth the critters’ trouble.
So let our dried fruit transport you. Enjoy each sweet, textured bite. And no matter what time of year, savor the taste of summer.