The Monterey Bay CRFG recently visited Epicenter Orchard in Watsonville, the home of Freddy Menge’s apple, pear, plum, and cherry collection/orchard, the source of many of the apples offered for tasting in the annual MBCRFG apple tasting (cancelled this year due to Covid).
During this tour and fruit tasting, members walked through the trees and discussed growing fruit holistically, pruning styles, wildlife and insect habitat creation, irrigation, varietal selection, weed control…
The approximately hour long tour was followed by a discussion and tasting of different varieties that are ripe at the time, many of which are shown and named in the video.
For the benefit of visitors to California Rare Fruit Growers northern circuit of Scion Exchanges, below is a complete tabluation of taster rankings from our October 2019 apple tasting in Santa Cruz, California, an event held now for over 30 years annually. Many (but not all) of the apples below will be available as scionwood at our local Monterey Bay scion exchange, and distributed to others run by northern California chapters of CRFG. These include heirloom, modern, and novel locally-discoved and bred apples.
For over 30 years, each autumn the Monterey Bay Chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers has held a public apple tasting in Santa Cruz, California that is likely one of the world’s most extensive.
This tasting honors the heritage of our region’s once prominent history in apple orcharding, as well as the amazing biodiversity and range of shapes, colors, textures, and flavors in the world’s favorite temperate fruit crop.
Our tasting features a wide range of apples, all locally-grown by our members, from centuries-old heirlooms to completely novel, locally-bred varieties (including a special section of redfleshed apples that have captured local imagination for quite some time).
I filmed a video, below, at our 2018 tasting, featuring some tasters’ perspectives on a dazzling array of fruits quite unlike what’s available at your average supermarket. Our 2018 tasted featured 77 varieties, each of them ranked and depicted in this prior post.
A number of the apples sampled at our 77 variety apple tasting in 2018 would be unfamiliar even to knowledgeable apple growers. These are local discoveries and novel varieties from nearby breeding projects, many of which exist only as a single tree each. All of these apples have distinguished themselves in one way or another over their years of existence, enough so to earn a place at our tasting tables, where several of them have performed quite well among the stiff competition. Freddy Menge, grower of a preponderance of the apples at our tasting, has offered some comments on these novel apples which I thought were worthy of pulling aside and illustrating on their own. —Andy Moskowitz
The Monterey Bay Chapter of the CRFG couldn’t ask for a better climate for growing apples. Thanks to our cool, coastal summers and extra-long growing-season, in the right micro-climate we can produce just about any apple variety worth cultivating. Our annual, late fall apple tasting at Santa Cruz’s Wilder Ranch has proven to be a perfect match of timing and location. Continue reading “Tasting 77 California-Grown Apple Varieties”
On December 1, we held our annual Holiday Potluck at the Santa Cruz Live Oak Grange, one of our most important community-focused events for the membership of the Monterey Bay Chapter of California Rare Fruit Growers. At this event we meet new and old friends to discuss our year in fruit gardening, share ripe harvests and delicious home cooking, and peer forward to our group’s year to come.
This year’s potluck drew an interesting and illuminating array of winter’s-eve fruit harvests from Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, where some microclimates have already seen their first light frosts. The images below depict a nice cross-section of what’s ripe right now, though not an exhaustive list. Please do feel free to comment below with any notable omissions of fruits you’re picking this time of year (fall-winter cusp) from your Monterey Bay garden.
The Monterey Bay chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers extends many thanks to breeder Ellen Thompson and field manager Juan of Pacific Berry Breeding in Watsonville, CA, for leading yesterday’s exhaustive and elucidating tour of their caneberry breeding facility. Pacific Berry Breeding, one of only a handful of caneberry breeding operations spread across the globe, works with material from public breeding institutions and germplasm repositories, and under contract with major commercial berry producers, to develop novel varieties of blackberry and raspberry for the fresh market.
Ellen demonstrated for us the traditional breeding methods employed here, showing her technique for making controlled crosses via manual pollination. She discussed how seedling varieties are evaluated for quality and commercial viability, and how seedlings are chosen to advance from season to season as “selections”, and then as “advanced selections” suitable for larger field trials. Fewer than 2% of of an initial cohort of seedlings will make it as far as propagation for extensive trials.
Following our fascinating extended tour of Pacific Berry Breeding, a dozen of us with the afternoon free reconvened at chapter secretary Ken Konviser’s Bobcat Ridge homestead avocado farm for a tasty potluck lunch and tour of his gardens.
At Ken’s hillside farm with a broad view overlooking the valleys of Corralitos and out to the bay, and beyond his tidy rows of terraced vegetables and healthy small orchard of numerous avocado varieties for market, we also enjoyed examining some of the more exotic specimens that he’s planted.