Monday, July 31, 2006

Peach-Picking in Brentwood

Fruitful on its 51st year, Moffat Ranch opened their orchard doors to eager peach lovers on July 17, featuring Freestone Peaches: Suncrest, Fay Elberta, O’Henry and Elegant Lady varieties ripe for the pickin’ from July to mid-August.

Jean Moffat runs the ranch with her husband, Walter, and son Jim, and some part-time helpers like Shannon Reid. “I came from Brentwood, Southern California. My husband is a Brentwood native. We bought this orchard in 1952. It had walnuts, peaches, cherries, and apple trees then. We still have young walnut trees but replaced the apples with peaches, as there was no market for apples,” Moffat said. “Today, we have 10 acres of peach, nectarine, and young walnut trees. The peach trees take about 3 years to start bearing fruit and then live a 12-year cycle.”

Moffat ranch started as packers and would ship their fruit to Oakland and San Francisco markets. Trucks would come and take them. This got the neighbors curious, expressing their desire for the ripes. “We were the only ones with U-pick then. Now, there are about 10 within the 1-mile radius. There have been many changes in Brentwood through the years,” observed Moffat.

She recalls last year as sort of a banner year for peaches (“Everyone had beautiful fruit!”) but this year, the rains thwarted pollination and Moffat predicts a short season for Fay Elbertas and Elegant Ladies. Nevertheless, the Suncrest variety yielded a luscious and bountiful harvest, with dense flesh and full flavor. Come and get them at $1.25 a pound. They have had customers from as far as San Francsisco, Pacifica, San Jose, Arizona, and Reno, that go peach-picking themselves or have them picked by the ranch crew.

Customer Pat Morgan from Oakley has been coming to Moffat Ranch for 30 years now. She comes in from the orchard with her bounty of suede-y golden-red skins. “It’s great to be able to drive into the orchard and pick the peaches. I prefer them fresh in season. I take some of them to the senior citizens who can’t pick them anymore,” she said. “Here’s a tip, I was told to pick the big ones because the stone inside is the same size.”

Moffat coaches beginners: “If the fruit comes off easily, it’s ready to eat. Choose based on the deep yellow, not the red part.”

Even kids can come to pick fruit as there are many trees with low branches. My sons love the peaches, specially when they’re overripe. My husband says they taste like “lamog na mangga,” (overripe mangoes).

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