Sunny Slope Orchard

Sunny Slope Orchard
In the coast range foothills overlooking the Sacramento Valley

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

After a successful harvest, time to catch our breaths

We're enjoying a slower pace after one of our busiest harvest seasons ever. Cots and peaches ripened 2 weeks earlier than usual, then plums and figs piled on soon after instead of waiting their turn. And except for plums, the harvests were close to record setting size. But we managed to get it done, picking, sorting and selling over 5,000 lbs. of fruit plus canning, drying and freezing lots more seconds for ourselves.

Now the picking buckets and ladders are put away, the bird scare machines are taken down, and we are back to setting our own pace instead of answering to the schedule of quickly ripening fruit. One important post-harvest chore is cleaning up all remaining fruit from the trees and orchard floor. Fruit hiding among the leaves or fallen to the ground due to wind can harbor insects and fungal diseases that cause problems the following season. Apricots and peaches are especially prone to brown rot and unless cleaned up can become fungus bombs when the fall rains come. So we scour the trees for any remaining "mummies" caught up in the branches, then pick up all traces of fruit we can find on the ground.

Apricot mummies like these can broadcast fungus
spores if left on the ground during winter rains

Another chore coming up is removing the sticky crawling insect banding from the trees. After major earwig problems last year, we banded all the cot and peach trees this spring with Tanglefoot. This was a time consuming job involving first smoothing the rough bark on the older trees, then filling in remaining crevices with latex caulking, then wrapping the trunk with soft foam rubber. All of this was to prevent earwigs from crawling under the banding to avoid the Tanglefoot. Next we added a couple of layers of plastic stretch wrap, and finally painted the wrap with Tree Tanglefoot Pest Barrier. (Because it can soften the bark, this goop should not be applied directly to the tree.) Happily this work reduced our earwig damage to near zero.

Earwig barrier of foam rubber, plastic stretch wrap
 and Tree Tanglefoot sticky pest barrier
But earwigs are one of those critters that are both good and bad: bad when they eat fruit, but good in that they can be valuable predators of other pest insects. So now that harvest is over we will remove the outer layer of stretch wrap, leaving a non-sticky layer that the earwigs can cross as they forage the trees for aphids, borers, and other pests.

Apricot Galette

Lay the sliced fruit out in a single layer, sprinkle
with a bit of sugar and chopped nuts if desired
Galettes are rustic pies that are super simple to make and delicious when filled with good fruit.  We recently used some of our last apricots to make this beauty.

You can find an easy recipe for fig galette hereJust about any fruit can be substituted. For juicier fruit like cots or peaches just sprinkle a bit of flour onto the crust before adding the fruit, to absorb the extra juice.

Fold over the edges of the dough 

Bake 45-50 min until the edges are golden

Serve it up!