The Great Apple Crunch is Oct. 22 this year, and it should be a fun day! Hart Public Schools are distributing our SweeTango(R) Apples for their students, who will each take a bite of their apples tomorrow at the same time! How fun is that?! And Katie Moloney is also going to take part, buying apples for her co-workers at the Oceana County Health Dept/WIC office. Good for you, Katie!
I hope many who take part in this will post photos on our Facebook page (Rennhack Orchards Market), and also the SweeTango(R) facebook page. Should be fun to see! An apple a day keeps the doctor away–this is a great event to draw attention to healthy eating habits and local fruit!
We are partway through harvesting our SweeTango(R) apples. It is always a good feeling when some of the premier apples are off the tree and to the market, impervious to the vagaries of Michigan weather.
With these apples, it is important to pick them gently (so no finger bruising occurs) and to place them in the picking sack gently (so no bruising occurs from being dropped on each other). We also do more than one picking, which is pretty normal for a lot of tree fruit. In the first picking, the workers select the ripest fruit that has good red color. This is usually the fruit that gets the most sunshine, on the outside of the tree.
Apples in the bin (box) are a pretty sight. Not all of these apples will be high enough quality to be called SweeTango(R). There are strict quality guidelines connected with that name, so you are assured of a great eating experience every time you buy a SweeTango(R) apple. This is NOT the case with many other varieties–notably Honeycrisp, which has no quality standards connected to the name. “Know your farmer” is good advice when selecting apples.
A bin of SweeTango(R) apples (before sorting)
We have good quantities of our nice ripe, red tomatoes for canning right now (as well as plenty of them for salads and recipes)! We also are picking our freestone tree-ripened peaches, and also Red Haven (which are not a true freestone & tend to cling to the pit), so if you want to freeze or can peaches, it’s a good time to do that, too! And if you enjoy frozen or canned sweet corn, there’s plenty of it to put up, as well!
No time this week? No problem! Next week or the week after will do just fine!
There is an easy way for Shelby area gardeners to share their extra garden produce with their neighbors in need. The pastors of New Hope Community Church (across from the Oceana Golf Course) are trying to help people with limited resources have healthier diets by providing fresh fruits and vegetables.
If you have a garden and are blessed with an over-abundance of some of your crops, they would welcome your garden’s bounty and can distribute it to area families in need. Here’s what to do and when to do it:
1. On Sunday mornings (before church), drop off your produce with a note that says “Please share” by the doors of New Hope Community Church.
2. On the 3rd Wednesday of the month, mid to late afternoon, drop off your produce and they will distribute it at their food pantry, which starts at 6 p.m.
Many of us believe in helping others; here is a tangible way to do it! (Please do not drop food at other times.)
At long last, the Double Up Food Bucks program is functioning at Rennhack Orchards Market! This program is funded by the Fair Food Network, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Ann Arbor, and it’s a win-win-win proposition! The main goal is to help families eat more healthy foods. Other benefits are that farmers sell more fresh fruits and vegetables, and that money stays in the local communities, strengthening local economies.
Here’s how it works: Families with Michigan Bridge (SNAP/EBT/food stamps) cards shop at participating locations. When they purchase SNAP-eligible foods, that purchase amount is matched up to $20 per day in Double Up Food Bucks. The Double Up Food Bucks can be used then or later to purchase (for free) fresh fruits and vegetables at participating locations.
We are the only participating location in Oceana (and Mason) counties. The Muskegon Farmer’s Market is another participating location in the area. I’m very excited about being able to offer this benefit to people with Bridge cards! The program runs through October 31.
Dave is out picking our earliest peaches today. They are the earliest “Flamin’ Fury” variety that we grow. They are juicy and sweet–just great sliced up, and even better if you toss in a few fresh blueberries. If you want a little more sweetness, sugar is always an option, but my favorite is to add a bit of (real) maple syrup–yum! Eat a bowl as is, or top yogurt, ice cream, or whole-grain pancakes or waffles.
Early peaches (right up through Red Haven) tend to be clingy to the pit, even if they are technically “freestone” varieties. When slicing, you can usually cut in half (along the “seam” from stem end to point), and then hold each half gently in your cupped hands and twist them apart. Usually half of the peach will come free from the pit, so you can easily peel & slice it. The other half, if clinging to the pit, will be easier to handle if you peel it and slice it while on the pit, either popping each slice off with your knife or cutting all the slices at once off the pit.
First peaches of the year
Dave Rennhack picking the earliest peaches we grow
Two ripe peaches
This morning’s thunderstorm swooshed over our farm starting about 7:40. We had gotten out earlier to hand-pick what we could before the rain. I went out to the LaLaStars; they are an Italian variety of light sweet cherries, new to us. This is the first year we have harvested enough for the market. I had to spot-pick the biggest, ripest ones last Friday, and gave the rest until today to finish growing and ripening. There were also a lot of small yellow cherries to avoid; they should have fallen off during “June drop”, but didn’t. (Cherry trees sometimes have these much smaller cherries that never will ripen. During the month of June, usually the stems will start drying up & quit delivering nutrients to the cherry, and the small cherries will just fall off naturally, before harvest time.)
Our professional fruit pickers went out early to pick our Burpless Cucumbers, Summer Squash, and Zucchini before the rain; we try not to pick them when it is wet out, since disease spreads much easier then. They also picked our early Apricots, and some Black Sweet Cherries. This variety of apricots makes a “pop” sound when you pick one that is ideal for harvest (not over- or under-ripe), as the twig releases the fruit. They fall right off the tree when they are ripe; it is very disheartening to hear them thud on the ground if we missed picking them soon enough. Each variety of each fruit has its own unique characteristics, including differences in flavor, color, size, shape, and texture. Our sample shelf near the front door holds free samples of our fruit, so take advantage of each opportunity to educate your taste buds!
We got over 1 3/4 inches of rain last night, a good soaker. (It didn’t all come at once, but rained steadily so most of it soaked into the ground instead of running off.) All the crops EXCEPT sweet cherries will really benefit from that rain, as it was getting pretty dry around here (except, of course, where we have drip irrigation). Dave wryly comments that the reason he grows sweet cherries is to ensure that we get rain during this season.
Sweet cherries have an interesting characteristic when they are rained on–depending upon the amount of rain, the temperature, the length of time the cherries are wet, and the development of the fruit–they can only absorb so much moisture before the skin splits open. These “cracks” are cosmetically devastating to what was a beautiful piece of fruit. While my dad always preferred to eat cracked cherries (they tend to be sweeter than undamaged fruit), consumers aren’t looking to purchase them.
We don’t know yet what last night’s rain will do to our sweet cherry crop, most of which is still hanging on the trees. The weather is cool, which is in our favor, and it is breezy, which will help dry the fruit. By tonight, we should have a pretty good idea how the different varieties weathered the rain.
We used to grow a certain variety of black sweet cherry, Somerset, and loved its crunch, size, and flavor. The only problem was with cracking–and it was a big one. Some years we had to throw out 80 to 90 percent of the fruit that we picked, just to get a decent looking quart on the counter. That is not only cost-prohibitive, it is very dispiriting to spend time caring for the trees and the crop, only to lose money at the end. We finally pushed out the Somerset orchard, not without a certain sadness for what might have been. But living in Michigan has so many more benefits that we can deal with the weather–after all, if you don’t like it today, it’s sure to be different tomorrow!