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.
California winters are a mixed bag. Cold weather, rains, sleeping plants and of course scion exchanges. After the scion exchanges in January I get antsy for fruit and looking at pictures isn’t enough.
This February I packed up my family – plus my parents, my brother and our significant others into the plane to our timeshare in Princeville on Kauai. We’ve been to Kauai several times and each time we’ve been able to experience something new. This time was no different. Having done all of the usual tourist activities, and seen the recommended botanical gardens (National Tropical Botanical Gardens are a must), I opted this trip to find more local growers to get a real feel for Hawaii fruit life.
Cherries on the Monterey Bay? Is that possible? Do we have the chill? Depending on who you’re listening to, and what you are choosing as your planting site, the answers can run the gamut.
Cherryvale and other parts of Soquel were known for their extensive acreage devoted to commercial cherry orchards up into the 1960s. It is also common knowledge we are in an observable trend toward warmer average winter temperatures, so is successful cherry-growing a thing of the past?
It’s Springtime in the Monterey Bay, swallows are plying the sky and peaches are in full pink. That means frost danger is passing, and it’s nearing time to plant avocados. If you can find trees, they need to go in now to start their race against the seasons. First freezes can hit in November, and the bigger you can grow your young trees, the better chance they have of surviving the cold. From our vast experience with killing trees, we would like to offer help in avoiding the blunders we’ve committed in trying to get our trees to grow.
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