We train them young!



We had our youngest ever member of the harvest team for our merlot grape harvest this year.  Talk about training them young.  Little Evelina definitely deserved her wages! She's just 20 months old.

She harvested - the low hanging fruit:


But spent most of her time on quality control, sifting through the grapes and making sure they were up to standard.



Let's hope she comes back every year.  She'll end up being a super grape taster - predicting the best vintages, no doubt!  Thanks for all your hard work little E! xx
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Harvest breakfast

While we sell most of our grapes each year, we do keep a ton for ourselves.  We pick these ourselves with the help from some of our friends and family.  Its a fun day and a lovely experience to be working on the land. After we've harvested the grapes, we sit down outside and share a big harvest breakfast.

I love to prepare food from our produce for the breakfast.  Here's what is on the menu:

All day long oat bites

  • For snacks when people first arrive - to get them ready for work, we made some all day long oat bites. And we will have coffee and orange and tangerine juice to go with them.
  • Then we've made an apple and banana bread.  Naturally we had to try it - and it was tasty - a very moist cake.  It will be served with an almond butter drizzle.
  • I also made some orange marmalade granola and some soy yoghurt yesterday.  I'm going to combine the granola with the yoghurt and some berries to make small breakfast parfaits.  
  • Then there is a fig frittata.  We've had to ration the figs to only 2 each per day for the last couple of days, so that there are plenty to go in the frittata!
  • To get some veggies into us, I'm then trying a hummus and roasted vegetable tart.  Sounds yummy so hoping it'll hold up, being gluten free.
  • And finally - my famous lemon cheesecake - which is free of cheese/dairy!
Apple and banana bread
The frittata has eggs in it (!) otherwise all dishes are vegan, gluten free, and have no refined sugar.

I think it's going to be a good breakfast for our hardworking family and friend crew.

I'll let you know how it all goes.
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Harvesting crew expands

Our harvesting crew is expanding:

Here is little Evelina helping pick some figs:


And also some carrots!



She's doing well in her training - with lots of different fruits and vegetables to chose.....carrots, apples, tomatoes, pears, grapes, figs,....and also some stones to add to the pot!


Its a busy week this week as we have started our grape harvest.  The Godello (white) grapes were picked at 3am yesterday - in the dark!  This is our newest grape - a Spanish white variety that no one else is growing in California.  Our first vintage from last year's crop is being bottled now, so we'll soon be able to taste it.

We will pick our one ton of Merlot for our own wine tomorrow at the much more reasonable hour of 8am!  We are picking it ourselves with some friends and family.  It's always such a lovely day.  Picking a ton isn't too much work and then we all sit down together for a harvest breakfast.


Our main harvest (20+ tons) isn't scheduled yet as it is being bought by Jackson Family Farms (of Kendall Jackson etc) and they will decide when they want it.

With her own little bucket!
What are you harvesting this week?
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An apple a day....

Apples, apples, everywhere....


We've now harvested the majority of our apples - and I've already dehydrated five large bags of them. They taste yummy dried - with nothing added.


And like our pears, our apples are huge this year.  We have a few apples that weigh more than a pound each!  It sort of makes a mockery of the "apple a day keeps the doctor away" as one of our apples could feed a family of four!

In fact, it did for lunch today. I made a nice slaw with a single large apple, walnuts, spring onion and mint.  And it fed four of us nicely!


Not quite sure what has happened with our orchard fruit this year.  We've never seen it so large - with pears over a pound each, apples the same and even large nectarines!  Yet not a great year for tomatoes.

But no complaints!  We are loving it.  What are you enjoying this early September?
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August harvest - green pears and apples

This week's harvest is the green pear tree and the first of the apple trees. We first finished off gathering the red pears as we'd left a few smaller ones a couple of weeks ago.  They were so large now -  some pears were over 1lb in weight EACH! Monsters.   One pear can feed a family of 4!


We were hoping the green pears would wait a little while, but no. They were ready so they are now stuffed in the fridge for their big chill, along with all the red ones! It's pretty crowded in our fridges right now!


And yet the apples are ready too, so we picked one tree only...but the others need doing probably this week as well.  Yummy green apples that I am eating every day - but also have got our my trusty dehydrator so that is busy at work with the apples, before the next tree delivers!


Nothing goes on the apples.  Just slice them with the mandolin and dehydrate for a few hours at 115 degrees F, to retain all the nutrients.  No need to core or peel - and that way you even get a little star in the middle where the pips were  *  Nice decorative touch, don't you think?

It's a busy time of year :-D
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July Harvest continues

The yum continues!  This has been a fabulous month for our home grown fruit and vegetables.


Delicious juicy nectarines!
Top of the list this month has to be our nectarines.  They are large and juicy and picking one perfectly ripe from the tree and enjoying its flavor is like a slice of heaven.  It feels like such a luxury to eat perfection twice a day!

But that doesn't take anything away from all our other goodies.

This month - in fact this evening- we've polished off the apricots.  We've enjoyed them most of all cooked with a little water and a single cardamom pod (removed before eating) and some cinnamon and cloves. The spices complement the fruit so nicely.  I was amazed at how the cardamom brought all the flavors together.

Apricots
The tomatoes are coming along well now.  Here they are prepared with some fresh basil, balsamic vinegar and Kite Hill Cassucio cheese which is a non dairy, vegan cheese made using traditional cheese making techniques, but using almonds and macadamia nuts.






Yes, our new collapsible bucket came out again for the harvest and was quickly filled up!


But I'm sad to say that our one failing this month was the padrone peppers. We had been enjoying them so much but couldn't keep up and have now learned our lesson. If you let them grow large, their heat grows exponentially!  I prepared one each for us to top a yummy mushroom risotto when my friend was here for  the weekend. I was the first to taste it - and gosh - was it powerful! To think that when they are small, they are quite delicate and you can eat them whole, seeds included.  Be warned - at 3 inches long - don't try eating them at all! Phew!


Yes, the red cabbage, purple potatoes and cucumber also continue. How many rainbows can two people eat????

Roll on August and lets see what yummies that brings. What's been your favorite this month?
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Wednesday's harvest - plums and potatoes


We had a good harvest day today from the garden.


The plums have been ripe since we got back from England last week, so John picked a few more, as the birds outside are enjoying them too much.  I have to say however, that I'm not a great plum fan, so I'm going to make them into chia jam - leaving just a few fresh for John to enjoy.



But our exciting harvest of the day was our first potatoes!  Having been away for a month, we didn't really know what had gone on with the potatoes and how do you know when they are done etc, as we hadn't see flowers.  So we ventured carefully under the soil and look what we found!



What colorful beauties - and lots more where they came from. Red, white and blue...



Life definitely is good! I know I am going to have a baked blue potato for my dinner tonight! Roll on dinner time.

And just so he was not forgotten, little Harold got one of the carrots that was "culled" due to thinning of the carrot plants!  He seemed to enjoy it!

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A pocketful of pecans

Harvesting continues....since October we've gone from grapes, to figs, to persimmons.....sort of missed the guavas when we were away....to olives and today, to a pocketful of pecans.


Yes, our pecan tree is still small so we both picked a pocketful. There were 17 in all!

Yeah. 17 pecans!  They now "cure" - i.e. dry - for 2 weeks before we open them up and see the goodies inside.


And did you know...pecans are the most nutritious nut with amazing antioxidant content.  I always thought walnuts were healthier than pecans...hmmm....our little tree better get growing! 

Check out this little video from nutritionfacts.org and see if you know how to rank nuts.



"What's next to harvest?", I hear you ask.... Citrus. Our citrus harvest is in mid flow...more on that another day.
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Merlot Harvest 2012

A week ago today, we were busy harvesting 22 tons of Merlot grapes! Phew.


The vineyard management crew began at 4am - in the dark with little lights on their heads to find the grapes!  I don't have a light, so that was my excuse to wait until the sun was up!



Harvest day is always one of the best days of the year. It's such a grounding, connect to nature experience to be in the vines all day, reaping the fruit, surrounded by the noises and chatter....and there were ducks on the pond, a great blue heron and deer all watching on.



As well as the vineyard crew - 12 pickers plus two others driving the tractors and loading the fruit etc, we had four friends join us to help with pulling the leaves out of the bins. The 2 ton capacity bins are pulled through the vineyard as the guys throw the grapes in, and we stand on little planks of wood at the side, diving in to get out the leaves.  As a result of having 4 friends with us, I think our fruit is probably the cleanest in terms of no leaves of any harvested in California! We did such a great job.





The "4" also picked some of the left over Godello from the previous week, to sharpen their picking skills.

The harvest was nearly 3 weeks early for us this year.  And the fruit looked and tasted perfect. The right sugar levels, the right acidity - it just all came together.


And we had some lively conversations over the grape bins - and some interesting times, for example when Mike leaned in to the bottom of the bin to get some leaves, but his feet came off and he teeter-tottered on the edge, not being able to get back up! Unfortunately, we didn't have our camera at this stage!


At 10.30am we stopped for a brief break and then were all finished at 1pm, when it was time for a harvest lunch outside, followed by some grape stomping.  Only Jeremy and I were up for stomping - the others had pathetic excuses, I can tell you!!!!  But J and I had fun and I'm sure they were then all envious that they didn't have sticky legs!!!!

First time stomper nerves from Jeremy..."do I really want to do this????"


It has been suggested that we need to use a larger bucket!

Hopefully from the photos you can see what a fun time it was.  Are you ready to sign up to join in next year????
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I love the fall

Along with our grape harvest, we are harvesting other fruits and vegetables every day too.  Here is what we've picked this week:

Cherry tomatoes by the ton!

Godello grapes, rescued before stomping began!

John's prize home grown watermelon!


My favorite fruit - fresh green figs with jammy red centers!

I just love this time of year!

We still have apples and pears in the fridge, lots of quince on the tree and veggies on their way.....

What are you harvesting or enjoying in season right now?
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Making sultanas

We harvested our table grapes today from our arbor.  They are lovely sweet seedless grapes. Most of them I am going to dehydrate to make sultanas - or golden raisins as they are called here in the US. I still prefer to call them sultanas.


Of course, we don't use sulphur on ours as a preservative, like many store-bought golden raisins. Ours tend to come out a little darker in color than the ones we used to buy in England... I suspect it is because it is a different grape varietal.

But I use a lot of them....in baking, for snacking and daily on my unsweetened cereal or oatmeal.

On the dehydrating tray

The first three trays are in the dehydrator now. I still have loads more bunches to de-stem but that is enough for one day!  My hands still feel sticky from all that sweet juice, even after washing them a couple of times!

Sultanas are high in anti-oxidant levels and despite being high in sugar, they don't cause spikes in your blood sugar levels like refined sugar does, because they are a whole food, with plenty of fiber.  They also contain iron, calcium, protein and vitamin C.  A phytonutrient called oleanolic acid in sultanas helps promote good oral health by destroying the bacteria that cause cavities.

Just as you can use dates in baking and cooking to replace refined sugar, you can similarly use sultanas and raisins. Before using them, you should rehydrate them by soaking them in water for 10 - 15 minutes and then drinking them.

What did you harvest today?
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Everything is tickety-boo

Here is this weeks list of the things that made me feel tickety-boo:



  • friends birthdays and spending time thinking about them, even though we couldn't celebrate together
  • being home alone for a few days and enjoying the peace, but then having hubby come home after his golf vacation
  • talking regularly to a friend. Although our conversations are trying to resolve an issue together, I appreciate that us working together on it, means we are spending more time chatting together.
  • a fun party in the city
  • enthusiastic students at a fermented foods cooking class
  • learning new techie things!
  • picking a fresh nectarine off the tree and eating it while it was still warmed by the sunshine
  • eating our first figs of the season from our tree. It's quite rare for us to get early figs - our main harvest is  September/October, so this was a lovely sweet treat.
I hope you've had a week of feeling tickety-boo too.
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Nectarine Harvest

Our nectarine harvest started last week.  It took us by surprise actually.  John was walking by the tree and noticed a few on the ground and so felt them - and they were soft and ripe!  We have two nectarine trees and this first one yields very green nectarines, not the usual white or orange ones.  Apparently, all nectarines used to be green in color but they were cross bred to create the more common cultivars with a more yellowish orange color.   The green color of ours means they don't look ripe, but my, are they juicy and sweet! They are the kind you need to eat over a sink, and free stone too.


But they all come at once, so since that first warm, heated by the sun nectarine, we've been eating a few every day.  That first day I made a lovely nectarine slaw with red and white cabbage, apple and nectarines. The dressing was lime and ginger and then I topped with my home grown red cabbage sprouts. It was delicious.

Since then, I seem to put nectarine in just about every dish I make! Amazing how versatile it is when you have lots of them to use!  Nectarine salsa I think was one of my favorite, after this ginger slaw.


Now we'll have to keep a careful eye on the other tree which tends to ripen just a little bit later. I hope it's not when we are away....

Nectarines are low in calories (about 50cals each)and a good source of vitamins A,B, C & E, lutein and antioxidants.  1 cup of nectarines also supplies 2.4g fiber, 1.5g of protein, plus calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, folic acid, and Vitamin K.


What's your favorite way to enjoy nectarines?

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