Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mandarins at the Fruit Stand

We now have Owari Satsuma mandarins for sale at the fruit stand. They're sweet, juicy, usually seedless and easy to peel. Mandarins were very late maturing this year and because of so much rain it's been hard to find a time when they're dry enough to pick.  We still have lots of persimmons too, including Hachiya, vodka-treated Hyakume and Fuyu.  The Fuyu persimmons are not crisp and hard anymore though, because it's so late in the season for them.  Although mail orders for hoshigaki are now being added to a waiting list, we still have small amounts of hoshigaki for sale at the fruit stand.

This week's Sacramento News and Review newspaper has an aricle called "Saveurs of the (almost) Lost Ark" about hoshigaki (dried persimmons) and the Slow Food Ark of Taste.  It features Otow Orchard and Penryn Orchard Specialties and talks about how farmers in our area have been trying to preserve the art of making hoshigaki.  Hoshigaki is part of the Slow Food Ark of Taste because it's considered a valuable and unique food in danger of not being produced anymore because of modern market pressures. 

On Saturday, Dec. 25th, the fruit stand will be closed for Christmas Day.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hoshigaki Waiting List

Obaachan massaging with Mizuki, Frisbee and Mocha.

We're sorry to say that any new mail orders for hoshigaki (dried persimmons) for this season will have to be placed on a wait list.  We need to fill the orders we've already received and then check if we have any supply left over.

If you'd like to be placed on the hoshigaki wait list, please mail in the order form so we can get your information.  We'll then notify you when we know if we can fill your order.  We have almost 400 lbs. of hoshigaki orders to fill already, so it may take a while to get to the list if it's possible.

If you are able to come to the orchard, you can still buy small amounts of hoshigaki at the fruit stand.  At the fruit stand we have grades A and B, but not premium hoshigaki for sale.  Premium has the softest texture and is the grade that gets sold in mail orders. 

This year's hoshigaki season had a bit of a late start, and an early finish because of periods of rain and cold.  The freezing temperatures around Thanksgiving time and then the rain made us have to end peeling any more persimmons, so what's drying now is all we'll have for this year's supply.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Taking Care of the Kaki

A bucket of some of the last kaki peelings this season.
At the end of last week we finished peeling persimmons (kaki) to hang and dry for hoshigaki.  All the hachiya and gyombo persimmons we use for drying are now too soft to peel, and the weather is too damp and cold for beginning more to dry well.  The last kaki that got peeled may take twice as long to dry as those that began in the warmer weather.  Now we have to concentrate on taking care of the kaki left drying until they're finished.

We are selling small amounts of hoshigaki at the fruit stand, but if you'd like to pick up larger amounts (more than a few pounds), please call us ahead of time so we can reserve it for you (916-791-1656). At this time, we're still accepting mail orders also.  When we determine that we've received hoshigaki orders equivalent to our estimate of what's drying, we'll announce here that we've stopped taking mail orders for the season.  To order hoshigaki by mail, print out the order form from the Hoshigaki/Persimmons section of the website, and mail it in with a check. 

Colder weather makes the fuyu persimmons start to get soft too, so if you like harder fuyus try to come get them soon.  Our mandarins are not quite ready yet, they're ripening late this year.  We hope they'll be ready to pick and have at the fruit stand in a week or so.  

Here's what's at the fruit stand now:
  • Persimmons--Fuyu, Maru, Hachiya, vodka-treated Hyakume, and limited amounts of hoshigaki (dried persimmon)
  • Apples--Granny Smith
  • Asian Pear--Okusankichi (extra large juicy brown variety)
  • Quince
  • Walnuts--in the shell
  • Pecans--in the shell
  • Winter Squash--Butternut
  • Pumpkins & Gourds--for decoration or eating
  • Eggs--from chickens at our orchard
  • Honey--from bees at our orchard

    Thursday, December 2, 2010

    Local Meat, Eggs & Christmas Trees

    Chickens out in the orchard under a fuyu tree.
    Through the Sierra Foothills Meat Buyers Club you can order local grass-fed lamb and beef, pastured poultry and organic eggs online, then pick up your order at our orchard or at one of the other locations in Placer County.  New this month are stewing hens and honey from Oregon House Farms.  The new order form for December is now online.  Pick up time at the orchard is Friday, Dec. 17th, from 3:30-5:00.  Orders need to be received by the Sierra Foothills Meat Buyers Club by Monday, Dec. 13th at 5:00 PM.

    The Koyama Tree Farm next door to the orchard is selling Christmas trees this coming weekend, Sat. Dec. 11th, and Sun. Dec. 12th.  Hours are from 9-4.  This is the second and last weekend they'll be open for the season.  You can choose and cut your own tree.  Info about their farm and other Christmas tree farms is at the PlacerGrown website.

    Monday, November 22, 2010

    How to Eat a Persimmon

    Maru persimmons left in the tree, probably not yet eaten by birds because they're un-pollinated.
    To eat a persimmon, you have to know what type you have and when you should eat it.  

    Here are the three types of persimmons:

    1.  Always sweet when firm--
    This includes varieties of fuyu persimmons.  People usually eat fuyu type persimmons when they're firm, but you can eat this type of persimmon when it's soft, too if you like it that way.  Fuyu are sometimes called "apple persimmon" in stores because you can eat them firm like an apple. 

    2.  Always astringent (puckery) when firm, only sweet when very soft--
    This includes hachiya and gyombo varieties.  This type is always eaten when it's extremely soft.  It needs to be as soft as jello and with translucent skin before its astringency is gone and changed to sweetness.  If you eat this type of persimmon when it's not as soft as it should be, it gives your mouth a puckery feeling,  sometimes to the point that your mouth feels dried out with a lingering numbness like after having novocain.  If you've ever done this, you probably remember.  The astringency comes from tannic acid in the unripe persimmon, the same type of acid in green bananas and raw acorns.

    3.  Pollination dependent (sweet when hard if pollinated, but if not pollinated are sweet only when very soft)--
    This type includes maru (chocolate) and hyakume (cinnamon) varieties. If this type of persimmon has been pollinated, it is brown inside and the brown parts are sweet when the persimmon is firm.  If it wasn't pollinated, the persimmon will be yellow or orange inside and astringent until it's very soft.

    How do you know when you can eat a pollination-dependent type of persimmon?  One option is to just wait until it's soft, so you know you can eat it whether or not it was pollinated.  Another option is to take a risk and cut one open when it's hard to check if it's been pollinated and is edible then.  You might find that it's brown inside and therefore sweet and delicious, or that it has no brown parts and now you've wasted the persimmon.  

    If you know what to look for, you can see clues from this type of persimmon's shape and color that tell you if it's likely to be pollinated.  These clues are more visible on some varieties than others.  At the orchard we sell maru persimmons when they're firm because the clues to pollination are easier for some of us to tell, but we always explain to the customers that you never truly know how the persimmon is inside until you cut it open.    

    Helen, who is over 90 years old and has dealt with persimmons all her life, is great at spotting pollinated marus, but she says that hyakume is more difficult to tell.  We treat hyakume persimmons with a little bit of vodka to change any astringency they might have to sweetness.  After being treated with vodka, the hyakume is always sweet and edible when it's firm.  For more detail about this, see the post "Hyakume & Maru Persimmons".

    To make hoshigaki (Japanese hand-dried persimmon), we use the second type of persimmon, the type you eat fresh only when soft.  We peel hachiya or gyombo when the persimmon is hard and unripe, but with full color.  By the end of the drying process, all the astringency has changed to sweetness and some of its fructose has come to the surface as a powdery natural sugar.  Theoretically, you could peel and dry any of the three types of persimmons, but we only use this type.  Probably this is because the fuyu type is easy to eat fresh, and because pollination-dependent types of persimmons are more fibery and less sweet when dried.  Hachiyas and gyombos are larger, stay more orange and turn out to to be the sweetest and softest type to use to make hoshigaki.

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    Orchard News--Twin Peaks & Huell Howser

    On Sunday, Nov. 14th, we will do a hoshigaki demonstration at Twin Peaks Orchard in Newcastle, as part of their Fall Harvest Open House event taking place there.  We'll bring drying persimmons in various stages to demonstrate and talk about the drying process.  Twin Peaks orchard is a nearby orchard that is also multi-generational and family-owned.  Twin Peaks started almost 100 years ago, around the same time as Otow Orchard, and our families have known each other since then.  Some of Twin Peaks' specialties are amagaki persimmons and peaches.

    In other news, Huell Howser's California Gold will be showing its "Persimmons" episode again where Huell Howser visits Otow Orchard.  He talked to Helen, Chris and Tosh and filmed the orchard and learned about how we dry persimmons for hoshigaki.  The show will air on KVIE, our local PBS station on Nov. 18th at 9 PM, Nov. 20th at 5 AM and 4 PM and on Nov. 23rd at 7 PM.

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    Fruit at the Fruit Stand

    The photo at the left is an Asian Pear gallette that Chris made using a recipe from Joanne Neft and Laura Kenny's Placer County Real Food cook book.  This is a seasonal cookbook that's very useful for finding ways to use local, seasonal produce.  Next to the gallette is an okusankichi Asian pear from the orchard.

    It looks like most of the vegetables are finished for the season, since the colder nights lately have been freezing the plants in the gardens.   We still have lots of fruit though, with all the varieties of persimmons now ready.  We're starting to get a lot of softer hachiya persimmons, and we have vodka-treated hyakume, and a lot of fuyu of various sizes. Fuyu persimmons are for sale by the pound, box or 20 lb. bag.

    Limited amounts of hoshigaki (dried persimmons) are now available for sale at the fruit stand, too.  If you'd like to buy a larger amount of hoshigaki, it's best to call us and order ahead to arrange for a pick up time.  Our phone number is 916-791-1656.  If you want to order hoshigaki to be sent to you by mail, you can print out the order form on our website and mail it in to us.

    Here's what's for sale at the fruit stand now:

    • Persimmons--Fuyu, Maru, Hachiya, vodka-treated Hyakume, and limited amounts of hoshigaki (dried persimmon)
    • Apples--Fuji, Granny Smith
    • Asian Pear--Okusankichi (extra large juicy brown variety)
    • Pomegranate--red and white varieties
    • Quince
    • Walnuts--in the shell
    • Winter Squash--Butternut, Acorn, Kabocha, Red Kuri, Spaghetti
    • Gourds & Pumpkins--for fall decoration or eating
    • Eggs--from chickens at our orchard
    • Honey--from bees at our orchard

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    Hoshigaki & the Weather

    Sticks of just-peeled kaki under the gyombo tree.
    We have been peeling persimmons for hoshigaki (dried persimmons) for the past few weeks.   Each morning when we expect good weather, we take the freshly peeled sticks of hanging persimmons out of the buildings to dry in the sun.  When the persimmons are at the right texture, we massage them for the first time and then the sticks of persimmons usually stay in the buildings as they dry further.   

    During the past three weeks we've had about a week of rainy days, so some of the persimmons have been inside the buildings for a longer time than usual.  Because of this some of the hoshigaki will take a bit longer than it sometimes does at the beginning of the season.  If the weather is very warm and dry in the early fall, the persimmons can take as little as 4 weeks to dry, but the average time is about 6 weeks

    Since making hoshigaki is so weather dependent, we can only make a certain amount each year.  As the temperatures get colder, the persimmons eventually become too soft to peel.  Right now we're trying to peel as much as possible before this happens. After the persimmons get too soft, we'll have to take care of what's already been peeled and that's all the hoshigaki there will be for that season.  In the past few years we have sold out and had to stop taking orders sometime in December.  We're not sure when we'll have to stop peeling and taking orders this year yet, we just have to wait and see what happens with the weather. 

    If you'd like to order hoshigaki to be sent by mail, click above on the "Hoshigaki/Persimmons" tab, or click here to go to directly to the order form.  We don't accept credit cards, so the order form has to be printed out and mailed in with a check.  If you'd like to pick up hoshigaki at the fruit stand in person, please call us to make an order.  Our phone number is (916) 791-7165.

    If you come to the orchard you can see the hoshigaki drying process and take a walk in the orchard.  You can see trees with ripening persimmons and Asian pears, vegetable gardens, compost piles, chickens and a horse.  We're open Tuesday through Saturday from  9-6 and on Sunday from 10-5.  On Mondays the orchard is closed.

    Monday, October 18, 2010


    Right now the orchard is full of trees with fuyu persimmons turning from light to darker orange.  Fuyu persimmons are a type of persimmon that can be eaten when they're firm.  You don't have to wait for them to get soft to eat them (like the Hachiya variety), they're sweet and non-astringent when they're hard.

    At the orchard we have a four different varieties of fuyu persimmons.  We have  Jiro, Izu, Giant fuyu, and an older original round fuyu.  In general, the fuyu varieties taste similar but have slightly different shapes and sizes.  Jiro, Izu and Giant Fuyu are squarish with four separate sections.  The older original round fuyu is rounded with a sharp tip at the end.   In the photo above you can see the round type of fuyu at the very left, next to one of the square types.  At the right is a Hachiya persimmon.

    Here's what's at the Fruit Stand now: 

    • Persimmons--Lots of Fuyu and Maru and limited quantities of Hachiya and vodka-treated Hyakume
    • Apples--Golden Delicious, Fuji, Mutsu, Granny Smith, Pippen
    • Asian Pear--Olympic and Okusankichi
    • Pomegranate--white variety
    • Quince
    • Jujube
    • Vegetables--tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot peppers, zucchini,  tomatillos
    • Winter Squash--Red Kuri, Butternut, Delicata, Acorn, Kabocha, Spaghetti
    • Pumpkins and Gourds--at the fruit stand or pick your own in the pumpkin patch
    • Eggs--from chickens at our orchard
    • Honey--from bees at our orchard

    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    Jujube, Gourds & the Fruit Stand

    This year seemed to be a good year for Jujube.  Although we have only a few jujube trees, each has a big crop of fruit, so we have lots of jujube at the fruit stand.  The photo at the left shows ripe jujube.  You can eat jujube when they're light brown and crunchy, or when they get darker reddish brown and drier and their flavor is more concentrated.  We've also been picking olives over the past few weeks and have most of them curing now. We now have Quince and white pomegranate at the fruit stand, too.

    Last week the first Sierra Foothills Meat Buyers club delivery happened at the orchard.  Through the Sierra Foothills Meat Buyers Club you can order local meat, poultry and eggs online, then pick up your order at our orchard or at one of the other locations in Placer County.  The new order form for October is now online.  The delivery date for the orchard is Friday, Oct. 22nd.  Orders need to be received by the Sierra Foothills Meat Buyers Club by Monday, Oct. 18th at 5:00 PM.

    This coming Sunday, Oct. 10th is Placer Farm and Barn TourPlacer Farm and Barn tour is a tour of nine working family farms and vineyards in placer county with demonstrations, art, music and activities at the various sites.  Otow Orchard isn't a featured site this year, but a few of us are going to help at Pine Valley Ranch in Auburn.   To buy tickets for the Placer Farm and Barn Tour, click here.  We'll have the fruit stand at the orchard open from 10-5 as usual that day.   

    At the left is a photo of a volunteer gourd plant that grew up the side of the tomato cages in my garden.  This one plant produced over 30 gourds, (more than any plant that I actually planted by seed myself).  We have gourds and pumpkins for sale at the fruit stand now.  We have a pumpkin patch to pick your own pumpkins in again this year, too. 

    Here's what's at the Fruit Stand now:

    • Apples--Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Fuji, Mutsu
    • Asian Pear--Shinseiki, New Century  (yellow varieties) and Shinko, Yoi, Olympic (brown varieties),
    • European Pear--D'Anjou
    • Plums--Casselman
    • Figs--Black Mission, brown variety
    • Pomegranate--white variety
    • Quince
    • Jujube
    • Grapes--Thompson seedless, Kyoho
    • Vegetables--tomatoes, eggplant, sweet peppers, hot peppers, zucchini, summer squash, tomatillos, red torpedo onions, herbs
    • Winter Squash--Red Kuri, Butternut, Delicata, Acorn, Kabocha, Spaghetti
    • Pumpkins and Gourds--at the fruit stand or pick your own in the pumpkin patch
    • Eggs--from chickens at our orchard
    • Honey--from bees at our orchard

    Tuesday, September 28, 2010

    2010 Hoshigaki Orders

    We have the new 2010 order form for hoshigaki (dried persimmons) up on this web site now.  If you'd like to order hoshigaki to be sent to you by mail, please order as soon as you can, because we fill your order according to when it was placed.  You can find the order form under the "Hoshigaki/Persimmons" tab at the top of the page. To make an order by mail, print out the order form and mail it to us with a check.  Sorry, we don't take credit cards. 

    If you'd like to pick up an order of hoshigaki at the fruit stand, you don't have to fill out the online order form.  To arrange to pick up an order at the fruit stand, please email us and tell us what amount you'd like.  We'll either write to you or call you back and tell you when we expect it would be ready.  If you're able to come out to the orchard yourself to pick up an order, you don't have to pay for shipping, and you can also buy smaller amounts than a pound. 

    It's important to keep in mind that the process of making hoshigaki is weather dependant.  Since we don't know how much sun and heat we get, we don't know ahead of time how much hoshigaki  we'll be able to produce.  The fruit may ripen more or less quickly and we never know when it will get too soft to peel.  In the past few years we've had to stop taking new orders sometime in December.  We'll post here on the web site when we can no longer take orders this year.

    In the orchard, the persimmons on the trees are starting to have blushes of orange.   When they have color, but are still hard, we can start peeling them for making hoshigaki (dried persimmons).  It seems like it will be a few more weeks before we will be ready to start peeling the first persimmons, but we'll have to wait and see what the weather brings.  After we begin,  it will take around 6 weeks for the peeled persimmons to dry and become hoshigaki. 

    In the photo above you can see fresh, unpeeled hachiya persimmons next to hoshigaki in its finished state.  The skin has been peeled, but nothing has been added.  The white powder on the outside is natural sugar from inside the fruit that forms on the surface towards the end of the drying process.   

    Monday, September 27, 2010

    Between Peaches and Persimmons

    Right now we are between peach and persimmon seasons, which are the two busiest times of the year.  There have been a few weeks of relative quietness at the orchard, giving us time to catch up on some projects.  Tosh has spent time lately re-modeling a part of the fruit stand building to make more more room for drying persimmons inside and to have an improved public restroom.   He also dug out a spot at the edge of my garden with the back hoe for a new garlic bed.

    To make a new garlic bed, I had to make a liner with aviary wire, then fill it back in with layers of compost and soil.  We plant the garlic only in the beds lined with wire this way, because otherwise gophers get in and eat most of the garlic.  Ideally, garlic shouldn't be planted in the same place for three years, so each year we should be making wire-lined beds for it to be rotated into until we have enough space.  We hadn't had time to make new beds for the garlic to be rotated into for a few years though, and it seemed like this year's garlic didn't grow as well.  Hopefully this year will be better.

    In the photo below you can see the wire liner in the ground, just as it was beginning to be filled in.  If you look closely, at the edge of the bed you can see a big difference between the dusty decomposed granite soil that was dug out and the dark fluffy compost.  The soil and compost is all filled in now, so this coming weekend we can plant the garlic.

    Thursday, September 16, 2010

    At the Fruit Stand

    At the left you can see a wheelbarrow full of winter squash at the edge of one of the gardens at the orchard.   Most of the winter squash has been harvested, so we now have some for sale at the fruit stand.  Also new at the fruit stand are Comice pears, Red Torpedo onions, and large brown Olympic Asian pears.

    Here's what we have at the Fruit Stand now:
    • Apples--Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Northern Spy
    • Asian Pear--Shinseiki, New Century, Yali (yellow varieties) and Shinko,  Yoi, Olympic (brown varieties),
    • European Pear--Comice
    • Plums--Casselman, Kelsey, Friar
    • Melons--Ambrosia, Hannah
    • Figs--Black Mission, brown variety
    • Grapes--Thompson seedless, Kyoho
    • Vegetables--tomatoes, eggplant, bitter melon, sweet peppers, hot peppers, zucchini, summer squash,  tomatillos, red torpedo onions, herbs
    • Winter Squash--Red Kuri, Butternut, Delicata
    • Eggs--from chickens at our orchard
    • Honey--from bees at our orchard
    • Organic winter vegetable seedlings--from Peas and Harmony

    Monday, September 13, 2010

    Pick up Local Meat and Eggs at the Orchard

    Otow Orchard is a new delivery site for the Sierra Foothills Meat Buyers club.  You can order locally grown and produced meat, poultry and eggs through the club online, then pick up your order at the orchard.  The producers are local, family-owned operations.  Livestock are raised on Sierra Foothills range and pasture and produced with no hormones or antibiotics.  The pasture-raised eggs are certified organic.  If the orchard isn't convenient, there are also pick up sites in Auburn, Penryn, Truckee and Lincoln.   

    The first delivery time at the orchard will be Friday, October 1st, from 3:30 to 5:00 PM.  There's no membership fee, but a $4.00 delivery charge is added to your order. 

    The Sierra Foothills Meat Buyers club is organized by the Placer-Nevada County Extension service.  Currently they are selling meat and eggs from Flying Mule Farm, Coffee Pot Ranch, High Sierra Beef and Sinclair Family Farm.

    Wednesday, September 8, 2010

    Plant Sale Extended for Sept. 11 & 12

    The remainder of the organic winter vegetable seedlings from last weekend's sale will be at the orchard plant stand this Saturday and Sunday.  Peas and Harmony will have winter vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, onions, pak choy, lettuce and Asian greens.  

    We have lots of nice apples at the fruit stand now.  From our orchard we have crunchy Red Delicious apples, and from the neighbouring Koyama farm we have Northern Spy and Golden Delicious apples.  We also have lots of ripe brown and Black Mission figs.  The peaches we have left are the last of the season firm and sweet cling peaches.

    Monday, August 30, 2010

    Organic Plant Sale this Coming Weekend

    This Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 4th and 5th), Peas and Harmony will have an organic vegetable and herb plant sale at our orchard.  

    They'll have Fall and Winter garden plants such as onions, broccoli, cauliflower, mustards, cabbages, lettuce mixes, arugula and Asian greens.  For more info about the sale, see peasandharmony.com .

    This Fall, we won't have organic plants for sale from Peas and Harmony over an extended period of time.  The sale will be just for this weekend.  If you need to make arrangements to pick up plants at other times though, you can contact Julie or Alison through the website.

    End of Summer, Start of Fall

    We've had amazingly fluctuating weather this past week.  On Wednesday it was 108 degrees, then on Saturday the high was 76 degrees with a few sprinklings of rain.  It was like July and October in the space of a few days.  Towards the end of this week the temperatures are supposed to reach above 100 again. 

    Because of cool and fluctuating weather during the spring and summer, tomato harvest started very late this year, and seems to be at its peak right now in my garden.  Over the weekend I picked lots of boxes of tomatoes, along with the first winter squash.  The squash is a bit early, and the tomato peak is about a month late.

    In the orchard, Faye Alberta peaches are all picked and we moved on to Rio Oso Gem and O'Henry's.  Now we have just a few more trees of late variety peaches left to pick for the fruit stand.  We harvested a lot of ripe figs from the fig trees and we have sweet grapes from the Koyama farm next door.   

    Here's what's at the fruitstand now:

    • Figs--Black Mission, brown variety
    • Grapes--Ribier (seedless, purple, limited quantity)
    • Peaches--Faye Elberta, Rio Oso Gem, O'Henry (all yellow freestone varieties); and Philip (yellow cling)
    • Plums--Casselman, Kelsey, Friar, Elephant Heart, Duarte
    • Asian Pear--Hosui and Shinseiki (yellow varieties) and Shinko and Yoi (brown varieties)
    • European Pear--Bartlett
    • Vegetables--tomatoes, eggplant (Ichiban and Listada de Gandia), green beans (Kentucky Wonder),  bitter melon, sweet peppers, hot peppers, zucchini, summer squash,  tomatillos, Swiss chard, oregano, mint
    • Eggs--from chickens at our orchard
    • Honey--from bees at our orchard

    Tuesday, August 24, 2010

    Bitter Melon

    Bitter Melon is in season now.  We grow two types of bitter melon, a spikey, more pointed type and a smoother, more oblong variety.  We try to pick them green, but a few have ripened to yellow and peeled open like a flower to reveal sticky and sweet bright red seeds inside. The photos at the left and below show a bitter melon that's just starting to open. 

    Bitter melon is in the squash family and is mostly used like a summer squash.  The texture is like chayote or cucumber.   Bitter melon is supposed to be medicinal and good for digestion.  Salting and rinsing it takes away some of the bitterness, but some of it always remains.


    Friday, August 13, 2010

    Faye Elberta Peach Time

    Faye Elberta peaches are now ripe at the orchard.  We still have 49'er, Rio Oso Gem, Suncrest, and Gene Elberta peaches, too.  If you'd like flats of Peach seconds for canning or freezing, let us know ahead of time and we'll reserve some for you to pick up at the fruit stand.  You can either call or stop by and ask.

    Faye Elberta peaches are part of Slow Food's Ark of taste, along with quite a few other varieties of peaches and plums that we have available right now.  Rio Oso Gem, Suncrest and Silver Logan  are all peach varieties included in the Ark of Taste.  Elephant Heart, Mariposa and Laroda are all varieties of plums that we have in the fruit stand now that are also included in Slow Food's Ark of Taste. 

    Tuesday, August 10, 2010

    Kelsey Plums

    Kelsey plums are very large green heart-shaped plums that are yellow inside when they're first picked.  Although Kelsey plums are sweet and ready to eat even when firm and green on the outside,  as they get softer the skin and inside becomes yellow to pink.  You can eat them in all their different stages of color and texture.  Kelsey is an old  variety of Japanese plum similar to European Green Gage plums.

     In the photo above you can see a box of just-picked Kelseys with a natural wax bloom that makes them look blueish.  In the photo below, a Kelsey is cut open so you can see the inside.  We now have Kelseys for sale in the fruit stand in various stages, from green to yellow-red. 

    The Fruit Stand is Full

    We have 11 different varieties of plums harvested right now.  There are so many that there's not enough room to display them all, so if you don't see particular variety out, just ask us.

    We now have lots of tomatoes too, including large to small red tomatoes, sun gold cherry , black cherry and Cherokee purple

    Some of the first variety of Asian pear, Kikusui, was picked over the weekend so there's a small supply for sale.

    Here's what's currently at the fruit stand: 

    • Peaches--Suncrest, Gene Alberta, 49'er (all yellow freestone varieties); Sugar Lady, Nectar, Babcock, White Lady, Arctic White  (all white freestone varieties)
    • Nectarines--Flavortop (yellow variety)
    • Plums--Kelsey, Black Amber, Friar, El Dorado, Laroda, Santa Rosa, Frontier, Mariposa, Elephant Heart, Duarte, French Prune
    • Pluots--Dapple Dandy, Flavor Queen
    • Asian Pear--Kikisui 
    • Blackberrries
    • Melons--Break Fast, Ambrosia, Ogen (Israeli Dessert melon)  
    • Vegetables--Tomatoes, Eggplant (Ichiban and Listada de Gandia), green beans (Kentucky Wonder), long beans,  sweet peppers, hot peppers, zucchini, summer squash, onions, Swiss chard, oregano, mint
    • Eggs--from chickens at our orchard
    • Honey--from bees at our orchard

    Monday, July 26, 2010

    Peaches that Melt in your Mouth

    Above you can see four of the varieties of peaches we have at the fruit stand now. Starting with the yellowish peach on the left are Delight, Red Haven, Suncrest and Gene Elberta.   All are sweet, juicy, flavorful and delicious yellow freestone peaches.  When they're ripe they're fragrant and soft and melt away inside your mouth.  

    Delight is large, firm and mostly yellow inside, with the outside mostly yellow with a red blush.  Red Haven is medium sized with skin that's a dark red blush on a yellow background, and yellow flesh with a sometimes a bit of red coming from the center.  Suncrest is large and streaked red and yellow on the outside with streaks of red running through the flesh inside, too.  Gene Elberta is large and yellow with a bit of red mottling on the skin, and mostly yellow flesh. 

    Suncrest peaches are also part of Slow Food's Ark of Taste.  They were written about in the book Epitaph for a Peach by David Masumoto.

    Tuesday, July 20, 2010


    What can you do with an Armenian cucumber that got this big?  You can use it like an uri and make pickles.  An uri is a type of melon that people use to make Japanese pickles (tsukemono).  Since the actual uri is hard to find in the United States, people sometimes use over-size Armenian cucumbers, because they're similar and actually a melon.

    I found two recipes for uri pickles from a cookbook called "Nihon Shoku", a Japanese-American cookbook put together by the Placer Buddhist Church in nearby Penryn, California.  The shorter version was called 'uri no kasuzuke', and a longer version that called for a year of curing was called 'uri narazuke'.  Both recipes call for sake no kasu, which is a by product of making sake.  You can find sake no kasu in a Japanese or other Asian grocery store.   Below is the recipe with the shorter curing time.

    Uri No Kasuzuke
    Uri or cucumber
    1 lb. Sake no kasu
    1 lb. brown sugar

    Cut uri; remove seeds; fill the cavity with salt and leave in shade until salt disappears (about 1 day).  Put uri in deep container and put cut side down; place in large flat dish and put weight on.  Leave about 2 weeks.  Remove from container and lay the uri in the shade to dry, covered with paper for about 2 days.  Combine sake no kasu with the brown sugar.  Put layer of uri, cut side up, in a container; cover with sake no kasu mixture; repeat, ending with sake no kasu.  It will be watery within a week.  Taste the uri, if it is too salty, add more sugar.  If using pickling cucumber, use whole.  It is ready to eat in 2 weeks, but will taste better the linger it stays in the kasu.

    Monday, July 19, 2010

    White Peaches

    We now have many new white peaches at the fruit stand.  Right now we have Babcock, Sugar Lady, Arctic Rose, Nectar and donut varieties.  A lot of people like white peaches because they're lower in acid content than yellow peaches, so they seem sweeter.  The season for white peaches ends a few weeks sooner than for yellow.  We expect to have a good supply of white peaches for a few more weeks only, but yellow peaches will probably stretch through August.  At left and below are photos of Arctic Rose and donut white peaches.  

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010

    Lots of Plums and Peaches

    A lot of different varieties of  plums are ready at the orchard now.  In the photo above,  going clockwise from the red plum in the top right corner you can see Beauty, Red Beaut, Santa Rosa, Frontier, Black Amber and Satsuma and Black Beaut plums.  Other varieties that are ripening and will be available soon are Mariposa, Duarte, Laroda and Friar plums. We have a good supply of peaches too, so we're selling flats of peaches and peach seconds.  If you'd like flats of peaches for canning or jam, please call ahead if you can and we can save some for you.

    Vegetable are growing well in the gardens now, too, although tomatoes are very behind.  We should have our first tomatoes for sale by this weekend, although the supply will still be limited.  Normally we have enough tomatoes to sell by the beginning of July. 

    Here's what's at the fruit stand now: 

    • Peaches--Red Haven, Bonjour, Flavorcrest, Regina (all yellow freestone varieties); white donut peaches, White Lady, Babcock (white freestone varieties)
    • Plums--Black Beaut, Laroda, Santa Rosa, Frontier, Satsuma
    • Pluots--Flavor Queen
    • Nectarines--Jade (white variety)
    • Apricots--Royal (last of the season)
    • Figs--Mission
    • Vegetables--Eggplant (Ichiban and Listada de Ganadia), green beans (Kentucky Wonder), sweet peppers, zucchini, summer squash, Swiss chard, basil, oregano, mint
    • Eggs--from chickens at our orchard
    • Honey--from bees at our orchard

    Monday, June 28, 2010

    Peaches & Santa Rosa Plums

    We now have a lot of peaches at the fruit stand, as well as Santa Rosa plumsSanta Rosa plums are very fragrant and flavorful, with both sweetness and tangy-nessCherries and loquat are finished, and there will be no more plants from Peas and Harmony until it's time for planting Fall vegetables.  A lot more varieties of peaches and plums should be coming up soon.  To see our harvest calender, click here. Because of this spring and early summer's cooler weather, what we actually have harvested so far has been about a week behind what we typically expect for the time of year. 

    Here's what's at the fruit stand now:

    • Plums--Santa Rosa, black beaut, red beaut, beauty
    • Peaches--Bon Jour,  June crest, Regina (all are yellow free-stone varieties)
    • Apricots--Patterson, Royal Blenheim
    • Vegetables--zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, Swiss chard, garlic and herbs (basil, rosemary, oregano)
    • Honey--(raw, from bees living at our orchard)
    • Eggs 

    Monday, June 21, 2010

    New Fruits and Vegetables at the Fruit Stand

    A few new things ready at the orchard.  Apricots and the early summer peaches are ready, as well as zucchini, Swiss chard, garlic and basil.  Above is a photo of yellow zucchini growing in the garden.

    If you have space left in your garden, we still have a few plants from Peas and Harmony for sale at the fruit stand. There are pepper plants, winter and summer squash plants, eggplant and herb seedlings.

    For father's day Chris made a peach and berry cobbler from Joanne Neft and Laura Kenny's Placer County Real Food Cookbook that was really good.  The recipe called for olallieberries, but since we don't have those at the orchard she used raspberries, mulberries and peaches.  

    Here's what we have now at the fruit stand:

    • Plums--Red beaut, beauty
    • Peaches--May Crest, June Crest
    • Apricots--Patterson
    • Cherries--Bing
    • Loquat (biwa)
    • Vegetables--zucchini, Swiss chard, garlic and herbs (basil, rosemary, oregano)
    • Honey--(raw, from bees living at our orchard)
    • Organic vegetable seedlings--from Peas and Harmony

    Thursday, June 17, 2010

    Early Summer work at the Orchard

    In the orchard we have been thinning persimmons from the trees, weed-eating around the sprinklers and checking and repairing the irrigation.  In the vegetable gardens we just finished planting the last winter squash by seed.  Most of the zucchini and summer squash plants are starting to produce.  The tomatoes are all green still, and they do seem like they'll be ready later than usual. 

    We pulled up the last of the garlic from the wire-lined beds and then planted the beds  with specialty pumpkins (such as cinderella and white pumpkins). There's just enough time after the garlic is pulled out in early June to put in pumpkins that will ripen by the beginning of October.  The beds are wire-lined to keep out gophers, since garlic is one of gophers' favorite things to eat.  They also like to eat roots of pumpkin plants and chew on the pumpkins themselves.

    To keep gophers out, we make a raised bed with hardware cloth on the bottom and aviary wire on the sides.   Though it's a lot of work to make beds like this, it's worth it for certain crops, since gophers are unable to chew through the wire to whatever is planted there.  Toshio has also been setting lots of gopher traps around the orchard to try to get rid of gophers in the other parts of the vegetable gardens.  In the photo above is Toshio with a few gophers that he caught in traps.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010

    Tosh and the Orchard on Good Day Sacramento

    Tomorrow the morning TV show "Good Day Sacramento" is coming to the orchard.  They're supposed to be filming scenes live from the orchard from 7:00 to 8:00 AM off and on, and spend a few minutes talking with Tosh.  The show is on channel 31 locally.   Click here for a link to their show.  From the web page you can watch it live on line, or watch the show later on.

    Saturday, June 5, 2010


    We just picked loquat (biwa) and Royal Ann cherries over the past few days.  We also have the first red beaut plums.  Red beaut plums have red skin and yellow interiors, and are the first variety that we grow to ripen for the year.  We expect to have apricots by next week.  Because of the cold weather this spring, all of these fruits are a week or so later getting ripe than usual.  

    Last weekend, for the second time I had to replant about two rows of tomato plants in the garden because they had frozen in a frost the week before.  It was really helpful that Julie and Alison from Peas and Harmony had big tomato plants they could give me so that I could replant both times. Otherwise I would have had only about a row of plants alive to produce tomatoes for the fruit stand. Now I can concentrate on getting the winter squash planted in the rows that are left in the garden. 

    In the orchard now the olive and persimmon trees have just finished blooming.  The pomegranate trees are still blossoming.  Pomegranate trees have very distinctive reddish orange flowers, as you can see in the photo above.    
    Here's what's at the fruit stand now:

    Plums-Red beaut
    Cherries-Royal Ann
    Loquat (biwa)
    Grapefruit-white variety (last ones)
    Organic Plants from Peas and Harmony-tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, winter squash, basil and other herbs 
    Honey--from our bees
    Eggs--from our chickens

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010

    Cherries & Sactown Magazine

    We picked the first cherries this week and they're now for sale at the fruit stand.  We had to pick them a little earlier than we wanted, because rain was expected again.  It has continued to be cool here with many record lows for the month so far.  Some of the tomato plants I replanted even frosted again this past weekend.  I pruned off the frosted parts, but if the plants survive the tomatoes will probably still be delayed. 

    A nice article featuring our orchard comes out in this month's Sactown Magazine  "Best of the City" issue.   The article is called "Home Eat Home" and it's about 10 local farms and their specialties.  Otow Orchard is noted for persimmons.  The article isn't online, but you can find the magazine for sale in a lot of places throughout our area.

    At left is a photo of ripening loquat (or biwa) on the tree.  Most are now yellow to orange and a little riper than this, so they should be ready to pick soon. 

    Sunday, May 2, 2010


    Lately we've been busy thinning fruit from the peach and plum trees, planting the vegetable gardens and fixing irrigation problems.  There were two cold nights this past week that killed some of the tomato plants in the colder parts of the orchard, so a lot of the tomato plants we planted a few weeks ago partially froze.  Probably they'll have to be replanted.

    At the Fruit Stand we now have: 
    --Oranges (Valencia) 
    --Grapefruit (White variety)
    --Lemons (Eureka) 
    --Organic Vegetable Seedlings from Peas and Harmony--tomatoes, peppers,  eggplant, cucumber, squash, herbs 

    At left is a photo of  the Valencia orange tree at the orchard. 

    Monday, April 26, 2010

    Unusual Events

    This weekend, while we were busy planting the vegetable gardens and thinning peaches from the trees, a few unexpected things happened.

    The first was that we found a snake curled up on the window sill in the basement.  As far as anyone could remember, no rattle snakes had ever been seen at the orchard, but we were still worried that maybe that's what it was.  When Tosh looked closely at the snake he could see by its markings that it was actually a young gopher snake.  He picked it up carefully and took it outside to a gopher hole in a garden.  Above is a photo of Mizuki looking at the snake. 

    Also, the neighbors' turkey attracted a wild turkey and they both wandered around the orchard together.  The neighbors' turkey is a male and it spent hours showing off the for female wild turkey by trying to intimidate people at the orchard.  He would puff out his feathers, drag the tips of his wings on the ground to make a hissing sound, and go anywhere there were people and circle around them.  Eventually the neighbor came over to make the turkey walk home and the wild turkey followed. In the photo above, the turkeys are in the parking lot by the fruit stand, the male is in front. 

    The third unusual thing that happened was that I found something strange rapidly growing and spreading in my garden.  Early Saturday morning during the 4-H organic gardening group, we noticed something that looked like gooey curdled milk spilled on the edge of a garden bed.  The kids poked it and it turned reddish brown within a few minutes.  Later in the afternoon I went back to the same garden bed and found that the gooey patch was gone from where it had been, but that another patch of something was a little ways away down the bed.  It was spreading along the lines of irrigation tape in the rows. This patch wasn't gooey-looking, but instead was bumpy and whitish yellow like tiny cauliflower.  You can see a photo of it above, growing near some bean seedlings. 

    I showed the thing growing in the garden to Toshio and he thought maybe it was a type of slime mold At home we looked up information about slime molds and found that what was in my garden matched the description and photos of a type of slime mold actually called Fuligo septicam or "dog vomit slime mold".  Wikipedia had an article with photos of examples of  "dog vomit slime mold". 

    The next morning when I went to the garden, the patch was smoothing out and turning darker, from whitish yellow to yellowish brown, like browning meringue.  By the end of that day it was marbled light brown. All of this fits the description of what dog vomit slime mold is supposed to be like, so it seems likely that that's what it is.  This type of slime mold feeds on bacteria, and doesn't usually grow on living plants, although it can do that.  Since the mold wasn't growing on any live plants and it was probably helping the compost break down, I left it as it was.  I did decide not to water that area for a few days though, because maybe this mold formed because conditions had been too wet in the garden bed.  Below is a photo of how it looked late Sunday afternoon. 

    Thursday, April 8, 2010

    Seedlings and Sad Chicken News

    Above is a photo of our chickens earlier in the winter out in a garden.  You can see the door of the chicken dome to the right.  For most of the winter the chickens were able to get out in the orchard during the day.  Near sundown they would return to the chicken dome to roost. 

    Peas and Harmony now has organic vegetable seedlings for sale at our orchard.  They have many kinds of healthy organic tomato, pepper, eggplant, squash and other plants that are ready for planting .  Their website is now set up so that people can also order and pay for plants through the Peas and Harmony online and pick up your order later at the fruitstand. Of course, you can also still just stop by the orchard and look at the plants and pay at the fruit stand.

    The sad news about the chickens is that a few days ago some dogs came over to the orchard and killed most of our chickens. The chickens were not even out in the orchard, a dog actually got into the chicken dome.  Eight chickens and our rooster were killed, so now there are only two chickens left to live in chicken dome just by themselves.

    Now we have to decide what to do.  Do we want to raise more hens from chicks or try to get adult laying hens somehow so we can keep having enough eggs to sell?   If we start with chicks now, they won't lay eggs until about August.  Also, maybe we have to build a new pen or have more than one smaller pen that we could move around the orchard more easily.  The chicken dome we have now requires three people to move it and it's now  bent a bit from the wind.

    The fruit stand is still open regular hours, although it hasn't been very busy lately.  Hours are 9-6 Tues.-Sat., 10-6 on Sunday.  Mondays we're closed. 

    Here's what we have for sale at the fruit stand now:  

    • Organic Vegetable Seedlings from Peas and Harmony 
    • Grapefruit--white variety
    • Oranges--navel
    • Lemons--Meyer, Eureka
    • Asian Pear--okusankichi (small quantity left)
    • dehydrated fruit from our orchard
    • Eggs
    • Firewood--seasoned firewood (peach, plum, pear, persimmon)

      Tuesday, March 16, 2010

      Spring at the Orchard

      In the photo above you can see a newly planted tree that replaced the old plum tree lying on the ground behind.  The plum tree that was pulled out was partly hollow inside, but still flowered.  To see a set of photos taken of Spring at the orchard, click here.  

      We are still spending time planting trees and pruning some of the later trees like the persimmons and olive.  In a few weeks we plan to start planting the vegetable gardens with tomato and summer squash.

      At the fruit stand we now have grapefruit (yellow and pink), navel oranges, lemons (Eureka and Meyer), Okusankichi Asian pear, honey and eggs.  

      Thursday, March 4, 2010

      Blossoming and Rain

      Trees are still blossoming, even though we've been getting a lot of rain the past few weeks.  

      If you look closely in the photo at the left, or click on the photo to enlarge it, you can see a bee visiting cherry blossoms at the orchard.   

      Lately we've been digging holes to plant new trees and finishing up pruning and raking brush.  We've also been planting and watering  vegetable seedlings growing in our small greenhouse.  We hope to be able to plant seedlings in the gardens during the first few weeks of April.  We started some ourselves, and we're also ordering some seedlings from Peas and Harmony.

      The chickens have been enjoying roaming around in the orchard every day.  We're not sure if they can still be free-ranging after we plant the gardens, though.  Maybe we'll have to just find a way to block them from the garden beds while the plants are still small.

      Friday, February 19, 2010

      Orchard in Bloom

      A lot of the orchard's trees started blooming this past week.  White and pink flowered plum and peach trees are spread throughout the orchard.  The apple, pear and persimmon trees will be later to bloom, just as their fruit is ready later, also.   The fruit stand is still open regular hours, and people are free to come visit the orchard any time we're open.  It's a nice time to come out and take a walk.  The fruit stand produce variety is at its minimum because only a few fruits are in season.

      Here's what's at the Fruit Stand now:

      • Grapefruit--white variety
      • Oranges--navel
      • Lemons--Meyer, Eureka
      • Asian Pear--okusankichi (small quantity left)
      • Kiwi--small quantity left
      • dehydrated fruit from our orchard
      • Eggs
      • Honey--raw, untreated honey from bees at our orchard
      • Firewood--seasoned firewood (peach, plum, pear, persimmon)

      Wednesday, February 17, 2010

      Chickens and Eggs

      This  past weekend we found that two of our new chickens have been laying clutches of eggs around the orchard.  Near the house Viviano discovered a nest of blue-green eggs (in the photo at left).  We have since noticed that one of the new Americana chickens named "Ruby" runs straight out to this nest every morning as soon as she gets let out to lay a new egg there.

      One of the new black sex-link chickens also had a clutch of eggs at the back of the garage that she had been laying.  On Monday night she didn't return to the chicken dome with the other chickens and instead stayed out to sit on her eggs.  She's been sitting on the nest since then, so it seems that she's trying to hatch them now.  This chicken chose a semi-protected spot in the tall grass next to the building, inside a roll of chicken wire that was lying on its side to make her nest.  To help keep the rain off I leaned an old piece of a fiberglass shower wall against the building above her.  Hopefully a coyote doesn't want to bother with coming so close to the house and getting through the chicken wire to eat her during the three weeks she'll have to be sitting there on the nest. 

      Above you can also see Viviano offering grass to the new Maran hen at the edge of the garden.  

      Sunday, February 7, 2010

      Budding Branches

      Above you can see a branch on a plum tree, with blossoms just about to burst open. The ume (Japanese sour plum) trees were the first to blossom a few weeks ago. When you walk under the ume tree by the house you can hear it buzzing with bees.

      It has rained quite a bit during the past few weeks. After about 3 years of low rainfall, it seems that the rainfall in our area is now at about average for this time of year. Lately we've been spending time pruning the trees, raking brush and preparing garden beds. We just got in an order of new trees this weekend, so soon we'll have to start planting them in the orchard.

      Here's what's at the Fruit Stand now:

      • Mandarins--owari satsuma (very last ones)
      • Oranges--navel
      •  Grapefruit--white variety
      •  Lemons--Meyer, Eureka
      •  Asian Pear--okusankichi
      •  Kiwi
      •  Apples--Pippin
      •  Eggs
      •  Honey--raw, untreated honey from bees at our orchard
      •  Firewood--seasoned firewood (peach, plum, pear, persimmon)

      Monday, January 18, 2010

      Otow Orchard on California Country

      We will be featured on an episode of "California Country" that's showing this week on ABC television stations throughout California. The episode features some of the different types of persimmons we grow, the orchard and our family. It will be shown locally on KXTV channel 10 Sacramento on Friday, Jan. 22 at 11:30 AM.  The episode is also about celery, brussel sprouts and winter gardens.  Click here for a link to the website.  California Country magazine also did a very good article about hoshigaki (dried persimmons) at our orchard a few years ago.  Click here for the link to the article.

      At the fruit stand we now have small amounts of hoshigaki for sale.  We finished sending out mail orders, called people on the waiting lists and found that we actually have a little bit of hoshigaki left.  Mandarins are gone, but we now have clementines, navel oranges, grapefruit, lemons, apples, kiwi and soft persimmons. 

      Monday, January 11, 2010

      Winter Transition Time

      Last week we picked the first grapefruit and naval oranges.  These are the last two fruits of the winter that we'll be picking. As these last citrus fruits are ripening at the orchard, the blossoms on the ume trees are about to pop.  Ume is a small, sour Japanese plum, and one of the first spring fruits.   We expect the late spring/early summer fruits such as ume, loquat, cherries, and apricots in May. 

      The last few sticks of hoshigaki are drying on the racks and we are trying to get the last orders packed and sent out.  Most of the persimmons are soft now, so the week and the next will probably be the last few weeks we'll have any available.  

      Here's what you'll find at the fruit stand:

      • Mandarins--owari satsuma
      • Oranges--navel
      • Grapefruit--white variety
      • Lemons--Meyer, Eureka 
      • Persimmons--hachiya (soft), fuyu (softening)
      • Asian Pear--okusankichi
      • Kiwi
      • Apples--fuji, pippin
      • Eggs
      • Honey--raw, untreated honey from bees at our orchard
      • Firewood--seasoned firewood (peach, plum, pear, persimmon)

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