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rdailey

Frog Hollow Peaches

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I've come to notice that there are certain organic farmers and food producers that generate a lot of extra press and attention in Northern Cal. I was flipping the remote the other night and even saw Martha pimping Frog Hollow peaches for an entire show!

Are the peaches from a "lesser known" farmer equal to Frog Hollows? I know the ones I get from the Marin farmers market are incredible this time of year. Are producers like Frog Hollow, Hobbs bacon, and other local "famous" products successful because they have built a reputation for being the best or just being the best known?

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I have been wondering about that also. I have picked peaches all over Brentwood this season. But Frog Hollow does not allow u-pick, nor does it have a fruit stand at its location, so I have been unable to compare. Certainly, they grow more varieties than the average Brentwood peach farmer. But does that make them better?

I am a skeptic, except perhaps when it comes to particular varieties of peach, which may be someone's favorite. I can't speak to that. I think that they generate hype because they are delicious but only available at Farmer's Markets where they can charge a premium. Most of the Brentwood peach farmers do not go to Farmer's Markets. They sell at stands on their farms, allow people to pick, and sell to distributors (who often resell at Farmer's Markets or fruit stands).

Typically, I have been paying 25-50 cents a pound for scrumptious u-pick peaches. The advantage to picking them myself is the opportunity to make sure they are ripe. A very soft squeeze and slight twist is all it takes. If they are not ripe they stay on the tree and are not damaged.


Lobster.

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Man, this thread should be visible only to those in good peach-growing parts of the country! You can't imagine how difficult it is for those of us who live elsewhere (e.g., NYC) to read about your Garden of Eden! We haven't had good peaches for a while...and forget about U-pick... :sad:

I, too, have been curious about Frog Hollow but haven't had deep enough pockets to indulge. You did read Jeffrey Steingarten on their peaches, right??? (Brix and all...)

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I have wondered about that too. Of course I've read what Jeffrey S. said about their peaches, so I started paying extra attention. I go to the Ferry Plaza market every Saturday morning (when I'm in town that is)--have done so for many years. I think I have enough data to make a generalization here.

Unfortunately I don't think their peaches are consistently superior to others at the market. I mean, I never just go there and buy a bunch of peaches from Frog Hollow just becuase of the famous name. I always walk around and taste everything before I buy, so I often end up buying from different people at the market, including, occasionally, Frog Hollow's.

In fact, I find their fruits in general excessively bruised and usually don't last longer than about a day or two. Don't tell me about the picking only ripe fruits thing, that argument would have been valid if compared to--say--fruits from Safeway. Other farmers at the market pick them ripe too, but they treat their fruits more gently perhaps.


chez pim

not an arbiter of taste

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I recently ordered cherries and peaches from Frog Hollow. while they were good and better than average supermarket fruit, they weren't special and certainly not worth the cost.

I also recently ordered bing and rainier cheries from Buckskin Orchard in Washington. They were exceptional.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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They certainly have a consistent product, though, depending on the year, I've been disappointed. I don't think they're any better or worse than any other independent peach farmer, but they're certainly a whole lot better than supermarket peaches.

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In fact, I find their fruits in general excessively bruised and usually don't last longer than about a day or two.  Don't tell me about the picking only ripe fruits thing, that argument would have been valid if compared to--say--fruits from Safeway.  Other farmers at the market pick them ripe too, but they treat their fruits more gently perhaps.

Hate to disagree but...perfectly ripe peaches only last a day or two. We rush them home, eat some, make jam, pie or daquiris, and freeze the rest with a food saver system.

I have read, and please correct me if this is wrong, that after being picked stone fruit does not ripen, just rots.


Lobster.

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Hate to disagree but...perfectly ripe peaches only last a day or two.  We rush them home, eat some, make jam, pie or daquiris, and freeze the rest with a food saver system.

I have read, and please correct me if this is wrong, that after being picked stone fruit does not ripen, just rots.

Well, yes and no. Peaches, nectarines plums and apricots won't ripen at all off the tree if they're picked before they mature. If they're mature when picked, they'll ripen to become juicier and softer but will not become much sweeter.

What I try to do is to pick out some fruits that are still on the hard side along with some that are perfectly ripe, so that I can enjoy them for a longer period of time.

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In fact, I find their fruits in general excessively bruised and usually don't last longer than about a day or two.  Don't tell me about the picking only ripe fruits thing, that argument would have been valid if compared to--say--fruits from Safeway.  Other farmers at the market pick them ripe too, but they treat their fruits more gently perhaps.

Hate to disagree but...perfectly ripe peaches only last a day or two. We rush them home, eat some, make jam, pie or daquiris, and freeze the rest with a food saver system.

I have read, and please correct me if this is wrong, that after being picked stone fruit does not ripen, just rots.

Well you are sort of right. But what I find is, due to the excessive bruises, Frog Hollow peaches are downright inedible by Monday, because the bruises turn completely dark and have sort of a rotten taste. Their peaches appear as though they are dump into boxes without any insulation or anything to keep them from bumping into each other.

Peaches or nectarines that I buy from the Saturday market are often still good to eat well into the week--though I usually finish them by Wednesday at the latest.

Anyway, this is just an observation. I don't have anything against them at all. Any farms who practice organic and sustainable farming methods get my respect. I just was disagreeing with the assertion that they are consistently better than the other peach farmers at the farmer's market. Safeway, no question about it, but at a farmer's market, my recommendation would be taste around and pick what you like best instead of going with a brand name.


chez pim

not an arbiter of taste

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Sounds like we are almost all in agreement that Frog Hollow has some great peaches, but are equal to the other local farmers in the area. So is it just a matter of luck that they have a reputation as being the best? Does it just take Alice Waters or Gary Danko to proclaim them the best to turn them into household names and get them on a Martha Stewart episode? Is it the consistency of their product?

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So is it just a matter of luck that they have a reputation as being the best?

Nope. It's a combo of good product plus a lot of hard work and savvy to market their product. It pays to be the first to build name recognition.

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Are producers like Frog Hollow, Hobbs bacon, and other local "famous" products successful because they have built a reputation for being the best or just being the best known?

I think the trend to "designer" produce was something started by Alice Waters, albeit unwittingly. From the outset, she put great effort into finding the highest quality producers and got locked into them. They basked in her subsequent celebrity as "purveyors to HRH Alice Waters".

Don't blame Alice, but the trend took on a life of its own. A designer tag lets produce vendors and restaurateurs inflate the prices and make the consumer feel good at the same time. Why does the Slanted Door need "Niman Ranch" beef or "Harris Ranch" pork plastered on its menus? Do they bear any resemblance to Vietnamese beef or pork? It's strictly a copout and a ripoff.

"Famous label" fruits are in the same category. Hey peaches are peaches, and some growers pay more attention to the qualities of their product than others, especially if they are too small an operation to attract the Del Monte buyers.

Why pay Starbucks prices when there's Peerless?

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Most of the Brentwood peach farmers do not go to Farmer's Markets.  They sell at stands on their farms, allow people to pick, and sell to distributors (who often resell at Farmer's Markets or fruit stands). 

Typically, I have been paying 25-50 cents a pound for scrumptious u-pick peaches.

My local independent grocery store (The Village Market in Oakland) sells fruit from XXX farm in Brentwood. Can't remember the name, but I've seen delivery trucks with their names dropping off fruit at the market. Whoever it is, that Brentwood fruit sure is good-but it costs $2-3/lb. by the time it gets over the hill. :laugh:

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I have found that I can sample a piece of fruit from Frog Hollow or other farmer's market stand, find it exquisite, buy a half dozen of the same variety, and find that they are not at all as good as the piece I tasted. Fruit varies from tree to tree and in fact from limb to limb, and of course, varies by ripeness. Always check that the fruit for sale is the same ripeness at the fruit cut up for samples.

I remember buying a $2.00 pear from Frog Hollow one year, turning to rejoin my husband with a "What was I thinking?" expression on my face. Was it worth $2.00? It was a pear.

Frog Hollow, I believe, gets a lot of press because of the orchard husbandry they practice, sticking with old varieties that other more commercial orchards have found too expensive to preserve. That doesn't necessarily make their fruit taste better than other properly ripened fruit, as Irish Cream suggests.


eGullet member #80.

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I bought a flat of Suncrest on Saturday at the Ferry Plaza market. Since they were in an insulated box and untouched by indiscriminate hands, let me tell you, they were heavenly!


chez pim

not an arbiter of taste

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pim, please correct me if I'm wrong, but I think I remember that Suncrest is one of the several/few varieties that Frog Hollow is trying to keep alive. So you are saying that these are Frog Hollow peaches that you bought and are so enjoying?


eGullet member #80.

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Fruit varies from tree to tree and in fact from limb to limb, and of course, varies by ripeness. 

Margaret, you are so right. I had no idea until I entered a cherry orchard in Brentwood last month, about the 5th one I had picked at. The proprietess told us to sample a cherry from each tree before picking because every tree had different tasting cherries. I was surprised. But, of course, she was right. The variation in taste of cherries from tree to tree was significant. Some were quite sour and some were ambrosial. Yet, the trees seemed identical and the fruit was equally ripe. A great lesson.


Lobster.

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IrishCream, the Brentwood peaches at my local grocery store are Fitzgerald or Fitzpatrick. What do you think of that farm's fruit?

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pim, please correct me if I'm wrong, but I think I remember that Suncrest is one of the several/few varieties that Frog Hollow is trying to keep alive.  So you are saying that these are Frog Hollow peaches that you bought and are so enjoying?

Oops I missed the most critical information in that post. Yes, the Suncrests I got were from Frog Hollow.

I my earilier posts, I argued that Frog Hollow's peaches were not *consistently* better than those from the other farmers at the market. I still stand by that argument. But I also feel obligated now to report on the superb lot I found last weekend at the SF farmer's market. :-)

I made peach galette on Sunday for a small dinner with friends, and I have to say they baked beautifully too. If you've never tried the Suncrest, make a point of looking for them next time you shop. They have the most gorgeous red/orange flesh, and are oh so tasty.


chez pim

not an arbiter of taste

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Sounds like we are almost all in agreement that Frog Hollow has some great peaches, but are equal to the other local farmers in the area. So is it just a matter of luck that they have a reputation as being the best? Does it just take Alice Waters or Gary Danko to proclaim them the best to turn them into household names and get them on a Martha Stewart episode? Is it the consistency of their product?

Actually, if you look at the menu for Chez Panisse this week, they're currently using Masumoto's Sun Crest peaches. I buy 'em at my local grocery store for $2 - 3 / lb. I have no trouble paying $2 for a perfect peach. People have no problem paying that much and more for a pint of ice cream and I enjoy the peach a lot more then Ben and Jerry's. The ones I'm buying are good but not as great as the peaches I used to buy directly from a Michegan farmer at the Evanston farmer's market. I can't find a local peach grower who picks the peaches ripe enough at the Portland farmer's market. I've found that the less people that are between you and your peach makes a bigger difference then the type if they're picked ripe (though I have a soft spot for the clingstone peaches, any type, I find them more flavorful but a lot harder to find). Some of Masumoto's early peaches (the produce guy didn't know what kind they were but they were softball sized) were dreadful, mealy and disgusting. I made the store refund my money. Consistant his weren't!

regards,

trillium

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Masumoto is the guy who had that "Elegy for a Peach" bestseller some years ago right? I remember it being very well-written and evocative. Has he written anything else?

Oh, just checked and his website says he *has* written additional books. I'll have to check them out.

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i'm coming to this a little late, but indulge me (i'm right now writing about peaches, again).

1) with many fruits, including peaches, it's important to understand the difference between maturity and ripeness. maturity is the developing of sugar. it only happens on the tree. ripeness is ... well, the best way to describe it is "becoming delicious." you can have a perfectly matured peach that is rock hard. ripeness is when the peach begins to soften and become fragrant (technically, the cellulose walls in each cell begin to break down, allowing the mingling of chemical compounds that create more complex scents and flavor). peaches will ripen off the tree, though, it must be said, rarely as well as they ripen on the tree. and, as someone pointed out, ripeness carried to extreme is rot. so the conscientious peach farmer's race is between developing full sugar and ripeness and still having something the customer will be able to get home without excessive bruising. this is covered ad nauseum in my book.

2) it's easy to get caught up in the blizzard of peach varieties, such as suncrest. in fact, there are more than 90 commercially important peach varieties grown in california. frankly, for the most part i rarely pay attention to variety. trust the farmer. farming is a devilishly tough business, as demanding and creative as cooking and some people are better at it than others. a poor farmer growing a great variety will produce poor fruit. a great farmer growing a mediocre variety will produce very good fruit (they would never grow a poor variety, but sometimes they might have to grow varieties that might be less than stellar in order to hit a certain harvest window between their great varieties).

We don't get Frog Hollow down here, except by airmail. My peach hero is Art Lange of Honey Crisp. But there are also several other good growers who show up at local farmers markets.

a word about farmers markets: sure, there's a lot of hype about them and about some of the growers. But think about this--a farmers market is one of the only ways a good farmer can differentiate himself from a bad farmer. If he goes the normal commodity route, his fruit is mixed in with the fruit of several other farmers who may or may not be as talented or conscientious and he gets paid the same as they do.

so approach farmers markets with a skeptical eye and always trust your taste. but i don't understand people who don't blink at $8 desserts complaining about a spectacular $2 peach.

was that long-winded enough?

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We don't get Frog Hollow down here, except by airmail. My peach hero is Art Lange of Honey Crisp. But there are also several other good growers who show up at local farmers markets.

The Honey Crisp guys are up here in SF too. I've got some amazing peaches from them--incluidng this most unbelievably sweet white peaches a few weeks ago.


chez pim

not an arbiter of taste

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I am a big fan of Frog Hollow -- their fruit is almost always the best at the berkeley farmer's market. I do not believe in being doctrinaire about these things, but I have found them very consistent. They do have a very carefully calibrated timetable of their varieties. Just got some good suncrests yesterday -- not overwhelming, but I think it is still a little early because of the wet spring. After 2 weeks eating South African Clementines on the east coast, though, they are pretty exciting for me.

I'll have to get off my ass and over to Ferry Plaza for the Honeycrisps -- everyone's been telling me how great they are.

By the way, I haven't found FH any more prone to bruising or spoiling than anything else.

This is my first post, so bear with me if I screw it up, please.

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This is my first post, so bear with me if I screw it up, please.

I still haven't made it down to the berkeley farmers market, which market is best down there? Congrats on your first post, welcome to eGullet.

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