This week, we spent a day driving through the Brentwood agriculture corridor hunting of the perfect nectarine. Brentwood is only a 90 minutes drive from San Francisco and is a perfect oasis near the California Delta. For decades, Brentwood has been known for its bountiful cropland and u-pick opportunities; and our fruit buyer, Dan Lemley, recently heard rumors of a particular orchard with a small number of old nectarine trees yielding a very special burst of flavor.
For a wonderful weekend excursion from the Bay Area, you can visit Brentwood and pick your own produce, but beware – this week the thermometer was pegged at 105 degrees! Unfortunately, the Brentwood area has recently seen a large influx of new residents and gated housing communities which has resulted in the loss and squeeze of Brentwood cropland. Half-way through the day we were feeling a little down on our luck, but didn’t want to come back to The FruitGuys without exhausting all local farms in search of this specific orchard. It wasn’t until we sat down at the local diner to slurp down some fresh cold strawberry milkshakes that the waitress started to melt and tell us about the hidden jewel for which we were searching.
Our detective work steered us to a family orchard called Arata farms, where Mike Arata and his son Phillip maintain 80 acres of fruit trees. Phillip is the 4th generation family member to work the farm with his father, and together they pick the fruit and run the business. Phillip’s father, Mike, still remembers delivering nectarines with his father to the San Francisco produce terminal in the 1940s and 1950s when the wholesale market was located downtown; on the land that now holds the 4 Embarcadero Centers. The nectarine we were in search of is an old variety called a Summer Grand. It is a freestone piece of fruit and may look a little rustic on the outside, but inside it is pure summer - sweet and refreshing. We are proud to have Arata Farms carry on this 50 year tradition, delivering nectarines to The FruitGuys so we in turn can pack these special treats for you.