Early Winter Fruit Harvests of Santa Cruz and Monterey

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.

Setting up some festive table centerpieces.

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.

A display of a few of the subtropicals (and other fruits) available for ripe harvest on December 1 around Santa Cruz and the Monterey Bay area.

Freddy Menge arranges a mini apple tasting featuring a few later-season apples from his orchard, augmenting our 77-variety tasting in late October. This was already a curiously late season for apples locally, with most types about a month behind schedule.  Slightly ironic placement of Martinelli’s juice bottle (the current destination of much of Santa Cruz County’s once-conspicuous commercial apple crop) is incidental.  (Individual varieties pictured below.)
Four crates of persimmons offered up by Nadine Schaeffer of her Birdsong Orchards: Hachiya, Fuyu, Saijo, Izu, Chocolate, Tamopan.
Gallons of Hayward kiwis for grabs via Stephanie Hudson and Andy Wilson, from one of the area’s oldest kiwi plantations at Coastways Ranch.  Accompanied by the following kiwi ripening notes: “* Store kiwis in an open bag in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 weeks to trigger ripening process.  * Remove kiwis in batches to counter where they will need another 2 weeks or so to ripen.  * Kiwis left in refrigerator will last 4-6 months, where they will gradually ripen.”

A host of other ripe fruits graced our tables from our members’ gardens, including later pomes (pears, apples, haws) and some representatives of the many citrus, figs, and other subtropicals that ripen this time of year:

And folks were delighted as ever by Karl Gross’s delicious macadamia nuts, grown just over the hill in the Santa Clara Valley.  This sparked many conversations about macadamia growing in our more coastal region, where some have seen minor successes, and others have struggled.

Freddy Menge put together a mini apple tasting from his orchard, to extend our big 77-variety tasting in October at Wilder Ranch State Park.  This one featured nineteen later-season varieties, from what’s already been an unusually late year for apples, with many a full month behind schedule.  These include a host of heirloom favorites, as well as some of Freddy’s local discoveries and farmstead original seedlings.

The event was a joyous one with great food, good talk, and some glimpses of the year to come for Monterey Bay CRFG, including a broader slate of meetings, several new community outreach gardening projects, and our increasingly valuable cultivar compendium project.  We applauded our chapter officers Chair Michael Kusiak and Vice-Chair Freddy Menge, with tremendous appreciations for their past and future service to the chapter,  and we voted in and welcomed our incoming board of officers: Andy Moskowitz (Chair), Nadine Schaeffer (Vice-Chair), Ellen Baker (Treasurer), and Ken Konviser (Secretary).  Everyone went home with bellies full, and sacks of fruit.

If you haven’t yet, do consider joining the Monterey Bay CRFG for invitations to our next Holiday Potluck and the whole calendar of gatherings and events preceding it.  Come deepen your knowledge in fruit growing, or let us show you how to propagate and plant your first tree.

A few of the many tasty garden-fresh potluck contributions, including pies and puddings from our backyard fruit harvests.
People file in as volunteers set up the potluck

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