What a Bonanza!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Joe Starkey
You know it's getting close to football season when I title a post: "What a Bonanza!" The signature call of play-by-play broadcaster Joe Starkey, it's something I get to hear a lot of thanks to my Cal Bear grad wife and the fact that DirecTV is in a contract dispute with the PAC 12 television network. That dispute means not a lot of Cal Bear Football games show up on the local TV channel, so KGO Radio and Joe Starkey it is on those fall afternoons.

But I truly believe that Starkey would utter the same line if he could cast a Golden Bear eye at the fresh fruit production currently coming out of the Bird Back 40. From peaches to pluots and grapes to apples -- it's all beginning to ripen up at the same time. Call it the "Bonanza" of fruit producing backyards. But, this is what I envisioned six years ago when I set out to transform a backyard that contained nothing more than a level sheet of stark, dusty clay.

Peaches and Pluots: Bird Back 40 Orchards
Yes, Virginia, you can get tired of eating peaches.

But I'm not quite there yet.

I've come to discover that peaches and pluots make for nice cousins when it comes to a morning snack at work. Twenty minutes of slicing and dicing in the morning, plus a little fresh lemon juice, leads to a couple of Tupperware containers that are jammed with fresh, tree-ripened fruit. Add in some slices of Honeycrisp apples and a smattering of Fiesta or Diamond Muscat table grapes, and it's a fruit salad.

We have so many options this summer!

Flavor Finale Pluots
I am perhaps most excited by the production out of the Flavor Finale Pluot tree. Planted four years ago in the Bird Back 40, it produced its first really big harvest this year. As expected, the mockingbirds attacked the fruit on this tree with impunity. But it really didn't matter much this year -- as there was more than enough fruit for the annoying birds and Bill and Venus Bird.

I've also come to discover that this variety of pluot is one of the few fruit varieties that I like to pull from the tree before they soften. The Flavor Finale pluot is one of the sweetest varieties of pluots to hit the market, and it's a sweetness that develops in the fruit long before it actually turns soft to the touch. That crisp bite and sweet taste is quite a combination, and I've discovered that the fruit doesn't grow any sweeter if allowed to stay on the tree until it softens.

Sliced Flavor Finale Pluots
And so? It gets harvested early this year.

Why did we get such a big year out of the Flavor Finale this year? Why not last year or the year before last? I'm not sure. I know that I lacked a pollinator for this tree. The Santa Rosa plum tree planted in the front yard was just too far away, or so I believed at the time. It might have been the grafting work that I performed on this tree two years ago. These grafts actually yielded a small harvest of different kinds of pluots this summer, but more importantly, may have also provided the kickstart kind of pollen needed to produce a lot of Flavor Finale fruit.

Whatever the answer? I'm blessed. Pluots are the bomb. Thank you Floyd Zaiger.

O'Henry Peach Tree: Bird Back 40
But no fruit salad from the Bird Back 40 would be complete without the addition of tree-ripened O'Henry Peaches. My friends, I've tried many peaches in my lifetime. Call me a "peach snob" if you will. From the early ripening varieties, to the new additions to hit the peach market in recent years, I've tasted them all. Yet, I keep coming back to the old, reliable, O'Henry Peach. It has a sweetness and consistency that ranks as my all time peach favorite.

It also might be the fact that I literally grew up with this variety on the old Modesto homestead all those years ago. Perhaps it's that taste of long-gone youth that brings me back to the O'Henry year after year? Perhaps...

Sliced O'Henry Peaches
The wife that is Venus and I were fortunate enough to add a third peach variety to the Bird Back 40 collection this year. This is a mult-budded tree that will offer far more harvest possibilities in the years to come -- as this one single tree offers five different peach varieties that have been grafted onto standard rootstock. This particular tree is called the Pride Collection, and contains peach varieties that ripen from May to September.

My friends -- that's five solid months of peach production. There's a word for that. It's called "heaven."

In the words of Joe Starkey: "What a Bonanza!"

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