Camelia Enriquez Miller knows peaches. For a century, her family has grown the fruit on their Newcastle farm.
“Now, we grow 35 varieties of peaches and 27 different nectarines,” said Miller of Twin Peaks Orchards. “We also grow a lot of plums and pluots.”
She’s seen firsthand how odd this peach season has been from the beginning, with early varieties ripening way ahead of schedule, leaping the calendar by two to three weeks. A lot of backyard farmers are experiencing the same thing.
“The peach season has been inconsistent,” she said. “It’s been challenging, especially for peak season varieties.
“Everything was really, really early. Then, it got hot, and our peak season peaches – the ones that should be ripening now – didn’t fare as well.”
In particular, those mid-summer varieties suffered from brown rot, a fungal disease that can be devastating to peaches. The disease can turn fruit mushy and brown overnight. Filled with fungal spores, little mummified brown peaches cling to the tree, waiting to infect more fruit.
Generally, brown rot becomes a problem only when blossoms are damp during fruit season, typically in March or early April. That allows the fungi to infect the baby fruit as it forms. But the rot itself doesn’t show up until the mature fruit ripens several weeks later, often right before harvest.
“Usually, you need rain for brown rot to spread,” Miller said. “We didn’t have rain but there was enough moisture in the ground that it kept things damp.”
Heirloom peach varieties tend to be more susceptible to brown rot than newer hybrids, she noted. But those old-time varieties also are among the most delicious.
To stop brown rot from returning next year, remove those peach “mummies” and prune off infected twigs where the fungi can overwinter. Clean up fallen fruit around the tree, too.
There’s one consolation during this tough peach year, Miller added. The nectarines were spared.
“The nectarines are doing very good,” she said. “They’re having a great year.”
Tomato time, Yolo style
August also marks the peak of tomato season, especially in Yolo County where more than 40,000 acres are devoted to that crop.
How better to celebrate than with an equally huge community party?
Next Saturday, Aug. 13, Woodland turns into Tomato Town for its ninth annual Woodland Tomato Festival. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., historic Main Street will be blocked off from First to Third streets as local farmers sell fresh tomatoes in dozens of varieties as well as other Yolo-grown products. More than 60 other vendors will fill the street with local arts and crafts, tomato-based foods and much more.
From 9 a.m. to noon, patrons can sample 15 varieties of popular heirloom and hybrid tomatoes during the festival’s annual taste test, hosted by the UC master gardeners of Yolo County. (Will this be the year Sun Gold gets upset?)
That’s accompanied by a local salsa contest, starting at 9:30 a.m., with local restaurants competing for “best salsa in town.” Woodland’s Sol Mexican Cuisine is the defending salsa champion.
Also up for grabs is the title of top tomato chef, won last year by the crew of Savory Cafe. They’ll be back to defend their title in this cookoff, which starts at 10:30 a.m. The challenge this year will be to create a three-course tomato-centric meal with tomatoes as the main ingredient for appetizer, main dish and dessert.
If all this make you crave tomatoes, you won’t be disappointed. Besides tons of fresh tomatoes to take home, festival-goers can try fried green tomatoes, tomato gelato, tomato ice cream and much more. The best part? Admission and parking are free. For full details, click on http://woodlandtomatofestival.com/.